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(All rights reserved.) 

Thanks are due to the Editors of The Academy, 

Vanity Fair, and The Pall Mall Gazette for 

permission to reprint the greater part of the 

work in this volume. 






THE MAGIC POOL . . . . .16 

THE STORY-TELLER . . . . .25 

ADMIRALS ALL . . . . .33 




THE PAT MAN . . . .63 

CAROL SINGERS . . , . .70 

THE MAGIC CARPET . . . . .77 

STAGE CHILDREN . . . . .84 


HAROLD . . . . . .99 





BEAD CRICKET ..... 112 



ON GOING TO BED ..... 137 

STREET ORGANS ..... 144 





ON PIRATES ...... 182 

THE FLUTE PLAYER . . . . .189 








The Day Before Yesterday 


WHEN elder brothers insisted on their rights 
with undue harshness, or when the grown- 
up people descended from Olympus with a 
tiresome tale of broken furniture and torn 
clothes, the groundlings of the schoolroom 
went into retreat. In summer-time this was 
an easy matter ; once fairly escaped into 
the garden, any climbable tree or shady 
shrub provided us with a hermitage. There 
was a hollow tree-stump full of exciting 
insects and pleasant earthy smells that never 
failed us, or, for wet days, the tool-shed, 
with its armoury of weapons w r ith which, in 
imagination, we would repel the attacks of 
hostile forces. But in the game that was 
our childhood, the garden was out of bounds 
in winter-time, and we had to seek other 



lairs. Behind the schoolroom piano there 
was a three-cornered refuge that served very 
well for momentary sulks or sudden alarms. 
It was possible to lie in ambush there, at 
peace with our grievances, until life took 
a turn for the better and tempted us forth 
again into the active world. 

But when the hour was tragic and we felt 
the need for a hiding-place more remote, 
we took our troubles, not without a recurring 
thrill, to that enchanted place which our 
elders contemptuously called the "mouse- 
cupboard." This was a low cupboard that 
ran the whole length of the big attic under 
the slope of the roof, and here the aggrieved 
spirit of childhood could find solitude and 
darkness in which to scheme deeds of 
revenge and actions of a wonderful magna- 
nimity turn by turn. Luckily our shelter 
did not appeal to the utilitarian minds of 
the grown-up folk or to those members of 
the younger generation who were beginning 
to trouble about their clothes. You had to 
enter it on your hands and knees ; it was 
dusty, and the mice obstinately disputed our 
possession. On the inner walls the plaster 


seemed to be oozing between the rough 
laths, and through little chinks and crannies 
in the tiles overhead our eyes could see the 
sky. But our imaginations soon altered 
these trivial blemishes. As a cave the 
mouse-cupboard had a very interesting 
history. As soon as the smugglers had 
left it, it passed successively through the 
hands of Aladdin, Robinson Crusoe, Ben 
Gunn, and Tom Sawyer, and gave satisfac- 
tion to them all, and it would no doubt have 
had many other tenants if some one had 
not discovered that it was like the cabin 
of a ship. From that hour its position in 
our world was assured. 

For sooner or later our dreams always 
returned to the sea not, be it said, to the 
polite and civilised sea of the summer 
holidays, but to that sea on whose foam 
there open magic casements, and by whose 
crimson tide the ships of Captain Avery 
and Captain Bartholomew Roberts keep 
faithful tryst with the Flying Dutchman, 
It needed no very solid vessel to carry our 
hearts to 'those enchanted waters a paper 
boat floating in a saucer served well enough 


if the wind was propitious so the fact that 
our cabin lacked portholes and was of an 
unusual shape did not trouble us. We could 
hear the water bubbling against the ship's 
side in a neighbouring cistern, and often 
enough the wind moaned and whistled over- 
head. We had our lockers, our sleeping- 
berths, and our cabin-table, and at one end 
of the cabin was hung a rusty old cutlass 
full of notches ; we would have hated any 
one who had sought to disturb our illusion 
that these notches had been made in battle. 
When we were stowaways even the mice 
were of service to us, for we gave them a 
full roving commission as savage rats, and 
trembled when we heard them scampering 
among the cargo. 

But though we cut the figure of an old 
admiral out of a Christmas number, and 
chased slavers with Kingston very happily 
for a while, the vessel did not really come 
into her own until we turned pirates and 
hoisted the " Jolly Roger " off the coast of 
Malabar. Then, by the light of guttering 
candles, the mice witnessed some strange 
sights. If any of us had any money we 


would carouse terribly, drinking ginger-beer 
like water, and afterwards water out of the 
ginger-beer bottles, which still retained a 
faint magic. Jam has been eaten without 
bread on board the Black Margaret, and 
when we fell across a merchantman laden 
with a valuable consignment of dried apple- 
ringstough fare but interesting and the 
savoury sugar out of candied peel, there were 
boisterous times in her dim cabin. We 
would sing what we imagined to be sea 
chanties in a doleful voice, and prepare our 
boarding-pikes for the next adventure, 
though we had no clear idea what they really 

And when we grew weary of draining rum- 
kegs and counting the pieces of eight, our 
life at sea knew quieter though no less enjoy- 
able hours. It was pleasant to lie still after 
the fever o,f battle and watch the flickering 
candles with drowsy eyes. Surely the last 
word has not been said on the charm of 
candle-light ; we liked little candles dumpy 
sixteens they were perhaps and as we lay 
they would spread among us their attendant 
shadows. Beneath us the water chuckled 


restlessly, and sometimes we heard the feet 
of the watch on deck overhead, and now 
and again the clanging of the great bell. In 
such an hour it was not difficult to picture 
the luminous tropic seas through which the 
Black Margaret was making her way. The 
skies of irradiant stars, the desert islands 
like baskets of glowing flowers, and the 
thousand marvels of the enchanted ocean 
we saw them one and all. 

It was strange to leave this place of 
shadows and silences and hour-long dreams 
to play a humble part in a noisy, gas-lit 
world that had not known these wonders ; 
but there were consolations. Elder brothers 
might prevail in argument by methods that 
seemed unfair, but, beneath a baffled exterior, 
we could conceal a sublime pity for their 
unadventurous lives. Governesses might 
criticise our dusty clothes with wearisome 
eloquence, but the recollection that women 
were not allowed on board the Black Mar- 
garet helped us to remain conventionally 
polite. Like the gentleman in Mr. Wells's 
story, we knew that there were better dreams, 
and the knowledge raised us for a while 


above the trivial passions of our environ- 

We were not the only children who had 
found the mouse-cupboard a place of 
enchantment, for when we explored it first 
we discovered a handful of wooden beads 
carefully hidden in a cranny in the wall. 
These breathed of the nursery rather than of 
the schoolroom, and yet, perhaps, those for- 
gotten children had known what we knew, 
and our songs of the sea stirred only familiar 
echoes. It is likely enough that to-day 
other children have inherited our dreams, 
and that other hands steer the Black Mar- 
garet under approving stars. If this indeed 
be so, they are in our debt, for in one of our 
hiding-places we left the " Count of Monte 
Cristo " in English, rare treasure-trove for 
any proper boy. If this should ever meet his 
eyes he will understand. 


I SUPPOSE that when little boys made their 
journeys by coach with David Copperfield 
or Tom Brown and his pea-shooting com- 
rades they did in truth find adventure easier 
to achieve than we who were born in an 
age of railways. But though the rarer joys 
of far travel by road were denied us, it did 
not need Mr. Rudyard Kipling in a didactic 
mood to convince us that there was plenty 
of romance in railway journeys if you 
approached them in the right spirit. We 
were as fond of playing at trains as most 
small boys, and a stationary engine with 
the light of the furnace glowing on the grim 
face of the driver was a disquieting feature 
of all my nightmares. So when the grown- 
up people announced that one of us was to 
make a long journey young Ulysses became 
for the moment an envied and enchanted 


figure. Our periodical excursions to London 
were well enough in their way ; noisy, jolly 
parties in reserved carriages to pantomimes 
and the Lord Mayor's Show, or matter-of- 
fact visits to the dentist or the shops. But 
we all knew the features of the landscape on 
the way to London by heart, and it was the 
thought of voyaging through the unknown 
that fired our lively blood, our hazy sense 
of geography enabling us to believe that all 
manner of marvels were to be seen by young 
eyes from English railway-carriages. Also 
we did not feel that we were real travellers 
until we had left all our own grown-ups 
behind, though in such circumstances we had 
to put up with the indignity of being con- 
fided to the care of the guard. Until children 
have votes they will continue to suffer from 
such slights as this ! 

One morning in early spring I left London 
for the north. The adult who saw me off 
performed his task on the whole very well. 
True, he introduced me to the guard, a 
bearded and sinister man ; but, on the other 
hand, he realised the importance of my 
having a corner seat, and only once or twice 


committed the error of treating me as if I 
were a parcel. For my part, I was at pains 
to conceal my excitement beneath the 
mannerisms of an experienced traveller. 
I put the window up and down several times 
and read aloud all the notices concerning 
luncheon-baskets and danger-signals. Then 
my companion shook hands with me in a 
sensible, manly fashion, and the train started. 
I sat back and examined my fellow-travellers, 
and found them rather disappointing. There 
were three ladies, manifestly of the aunt kind, 
and a stiff, well-behaved little girl who might 
have stepped out of one of my sister's story- 
books. She was reading a book without 
pictures, and when I turned over the pages 
of my magazines she displayed no interest 
in them whatever. I could never read in 
the train, so, with a tentative effort at good 
manners, I pushed them towards her, but 
she shook her head ; to show her that I 
did not think this was a snub I pulled out 
my packet of sandwiches and had my lunch. 
After that I played with the blind, which 
worked with a spring, until one of the aunts 
told me not to fidget, although she was no 


aunt of mine. Then I looked out of the 
window, a prey to voiceless wrath. 

By now we had left London far behind, 
and when I had finished composing 
imaginary retorts to the unscrupulous aunt 
I was quite content to see the wonders of 
the world flit by. There were hills and 
valleys decked with romantic woods and set 
with fascinating and secretive ponds. To 
my eyes the hills were mountains and the 
valleys perilous hollows, the accustomed lairs 
of tremendous dragons. I saw little thatched 
houses wherein swart witches awaited the 
coming of Hansel and Gretel, and fairy 
children waved to me from cottage gardens 
and the gates of level-crossings, greetings 
which I dutifully returned until the aunt 
made me pull up the window. After a while 
a change came over the scenery. The placid 
greens and browns of the countryside blos- 
somed to gold and purple and crimson. I 
saw a roc float across the arching sky on 
sluggish wings, and my eyes were delighted 
with visions of deserts and mosques and 
palm-trees. That my fellow-passengers 
would not raise their heads to behold 


these marvels did not trouble me ; I beat 
on the window with delight, until, like little 
Billee in Thackeray's ballad, I saw Jerusalem 
and Madagascar and North and South 

Then something surprising happened. I 
saw the earth leap up and invade the sky 
and the sky drop down and blot out the 
earth, and I felt as though my wings were 
broken. Then the sides of the carriage 
closed in and squeezed out the door like a 
pip out of an orange, until there was only 
a three-cornered gap left. The air was full 
of dust, and I sneezed again and again, but 
could not find my pocket-handkerchief. 
Presently a young man came and lifted 
me out through the hole, and seemed very 
surprised that I was not hurt. I realised 
that there had been an accident, for the train 
was broken into pieces and the permanent 
way was very untidy. Close at hand I saw 
the little girl sitting on a bank, and a man 
kneeling at her feet taking her boots off. 
I would have liked to speak to her, but I 
remembered how she had refused the offer 
of my magazines, and was afraid she would 


snub me again. The place was very noisy, 
for people were calling out, and there was 
a great sound of steam. I noticed that every- 
body's face was very white, especially the 
guard's, which made his beard seem as black 
as soot. The young man took me by the 
hand and led me along the uneven ground, 
and there was so much to see that my feet 
kept stumbling over things, and he had to 
hold me up. On the way we passed the 
body of a man lying with a rug over his 
head. I knew that he was dead ; but I 
had seen drunken men in the streets lie like 
that, and I could not help looking about 
for the policeman. Soon we came to a little 
station, and the platform was crowded with 
people who would not stand still, but walked 
round and round making noises. When I 
climbed up on the platform a woman caught 
hold of me and cried over me. One of 
her tears fell on my ear and tickled me ; 
but she held me so tightly that I could not 
put up my hand to rub it. Her breath was 
hot on my head. 

Then I heard a detested voice say, " Poor 
little boy, so tired ! " and I shuddered back 


into consciousness of the world that was least 
interesting of all the worlds I knew. I need 
not have opened my eyes to be sure that the 
aunts were at their fell work again, and that 
the little girl's snub nose was tilted to a 
patronising angel. Had I awakened a minute 
later she, too, would have joined in the 
auntish chorus of compassion for my weak- 
ness. As it was, I looked at her with drowsy 
pity, finding that she was one of those luck- 
less infants who might as well stay at home 
for all the fun they get out of travelling. 
She knew no better than to scream when 
the train ran into a tunnel ; what would 
she have done if she had seen my roc? 

The train ran on and on, and still I 
throned it in my corner, awake or dream- 
ing, indisputably master of all the things 
that counted. The three aunts faded into 
antimacassars ; the little girl endured her 
uninteresting life and became an aunt 
and an antimacassar in her turn, and 
still I swung my legs in my corner 
seat, a boy-errant in the strange places of 
the world. I do not remember the name of 
the station at which the bearded guard ulti- 


mately brought me out of my dreams. I 
do remember standing stiffly on the plat- 
form and deciding that I had been travelling 
night and day for three hundred years. 
When I communicated this fact to the 
relatives who met me they were strangely 
unimpressed ; but I knew that when I 
returned home to my brothers they would 
display a decent interest in the story of my 
wanderings. After all, you can't expect 
grown-up people to understand everything ! 


BEING born in a sceptical age, heirs of a 
world that certainly took its Darwin too 
seriously, we children did not readily enlarge 
the circle of our supernatural acquaintances. 
There was the old witch who lived in the 
two-storied house beyond the hill, in whom 
less discriminate eyes recognised only the 
very respectable widow of an officer in the 
India Army. There was the ghost of 
the murdered shepherd-lad that haunted the 
ruined hut high up on the windy downs ; 
on gusty nights we heard him piping shrilly 
to his phantom flocks, and sometimes their 
little bells seemed to greet us from the chorus 
of the storm. There was a little drowned 
kitten who mewed to us from the shadows of 
the rain-water cistern, and a small boy who 
cried about the garden in the autumn because 
he could not find his ball among the dead 



leaves. We had all heard the three last, 
and most of us had seen them at twilight- 
time, when ghosts pluck up their poor thin 
courage and take their walks abroad . As 
for the witch, we relied on our intuitions 
and gave her house a wide berth. 

The credentials of these four unquiet 
spirits having been examined and found 
satisfactory, schoolroom opinion was against 
any addition to their number. We would 
not accept my younger brother's murderer 
carrying a sack or my little sister's pro- 
cession of special tortoises, though we 
acknowledged that there was merit in them, 
regarded merely as artistic conceptions. 
Perhaps, subconsciously, we realised that to 
make the supernatural commonplace is also 
to make it ineffective, and that there is no 
dignity in a life jostled by spooks. At all 
events, we relied for our periodical panics 
on those which had received the official 
sanction, and on the terrifying monsters our 
imaginations had drawn from real life 
burglars, lunatics, and drunken men. 

It was therefore noteworthy that as soon 
as we discovered the pool in Hayward's 



Wood we were all agreed that it was no 
ordinary sheet of water, but one of those 
enchanted pools which draw their waters 
from magic sources and are capable of 
throwing spells over mortals who approach 
them 1 unwarily. And yet, though we felt in- 
stinctively that there was something queer 
about it, the pool in itself was not unattrac- 
tive. Held, as it were, in a cup in the heart 
of the wood, it still contrived to win its 
share of sunshine through the branches 
above. On its surface the water-boatmen 
were ferrying cheerfully to and fro, while 
overhead the dragon -flies drove their gaudy 
monoplanes in ceaseless competition. All 
about the woods were gay with wild garlic 
and the little purple gloves that Nature pro- 
vides for foxes, and through a natural alley 
we could see a golden meadow, where cups 
of cool butter were spread with lavish 
generosity to quench the parched tongues 
of bees. The mud that squelched under our 
feet as we stood on the brink seemed to 
be good, honest mud, and gave our boots 
the proper holiday finish. Nevertheless, we 
stared silently at the waters, half -expecting 


to see them thicken and part in brown foam, 
to allow some red-mouthed prehistoric 
monster to rise oozily from his resting- 
place in the mud some such mammoth as 
we had seen carved in stone on the borders 
of the lake at the Crystal Palace. But no 
monster appeared ; only a rabbit sprang up 
suddenly on the far side of the pool, and, 
seeing we had no gun and no dog, limped 
off in a leisurely manner to the warren. 

After a while we grew weary of our doubts, 
and, tacitly agreeing to pretend that it was 
only an ordinary pond, fell to paddling in 
the shallows with a good heart. The mud 
slid warmly through our toes, and the water 
lay round our calves like a tight string, but 
we were not changed, as we had half antici- 
pated, into tadpoles or water-lilies. It was 
apparent that the magic was of a subtler 
kind than this, and we splashed about cheer- 
fully until the inevitable happened and one 
of us went in up to his waist. Then we sat 
on the bank nursing our wet feet, and laugh- 
ing at the victim as he ruefully wrung out 
his clothes. We were all of a nautical turn 
of mind, and we agreed that the pond would 


serve very well for minor naval engagements, 
though it was too sheltered to provide enough 
wind for sailing-ships. Still, here we should 
at all events be secure from such a disaster 
as had recently overtaken my troopship 
Dauntless, which was cruising in calm 
weather on Pickhurst Pond when all of 
a sudden " a land breeze shook the shrouds 
and she was overset," and four-and -twenty 
good soldiers sank to the bottom like lead, 
which they were. Regarded merely as an 
attractive piece of water, the pool could not 
fail to be of service in our adventurous lives. 
But all the time we felt in our hearts that 
it was something more, though we would 
have found it hard to give reasons for our 
conviction, for the pool seemed very well 
able to keep the secret of its enchantment. 
We did not even know whether it was the 
instrument of black magic or of white, 
whether its influence on human beings 
was amiable or malevolent. We only knew 
that it was under a spell, that beneath its 
reticent surface, that showed nothing more 
than the reflection of our own inquiring 
faces, lay hidden some part of that especial 


magic that makes the dreams of young people 
as real as life, and contradicts the unlovely 
generalisations of disillusioned adults. All 
that was necessary was to find the key that 
would unlock the golden gates. 

The brother who was nearest to me in 
terms of years found it two days later, and 
came to me breathlessly with the news. He 
had been reading a book of fairy stories, 
and had come upon the description of just 
such a magic pool as ours, even to the rabbit 
who was, it seemed, a kind of advance- 
agent to the spirit of the pool. The rules 
were very clear. All you had to do was 
to go to the pool at midnight and wish aloud, 
and your wish would be granted. If you 
were greedy enough to wish more than once, 
you would be changed into a goldfish. My 
brother thought it would be rather jolly to 
be a goldfish, and so for a while did I ; 
but on reflection we decided that if the one 
wish were carefully expended it might be 
more amusing to remain a boy. 

It says something for our spirit of adven- 
ture that we did not even discuss the 
advisability of undertaking this lawless ex- 


pedition. We were more engaged in 
rejoicing in anticipation over the discom- 
fiture of our elder brothers and settling the 
difficult problem of what we should wish. 
My brother was all for seven-league boots 
and invisible caps and other conjuring tricks . 
of a faery character ; I had set my heart 
on money, more sovereigns than we could 
carry, and I finally brought my brother 
round to my point of view. After all, he 
could always buy the other things if he had 
enough money. It was agreed that he should 
wind up his birthday watch and that we 
should only pretend to go to bed, as we 
should have to start at half -past eleven. 
When planned by daylight the whole thing 
seemed absurdly easy. 

We had no difficulty in getting out of the 
house when the time came, simply because 
this was not the sort of thing that the grown- 
up people expected us to do, but we found 
the world strangely altered. The familiar 
lanes had become rivers of changing 
shadows, the hedgerows were ambuscades 
of robbers, the tall trees were affronted 
giants. Fortunately, we were on very good 


terms with the moon at the time, so when 
she made her periodical appearances from 
behind the scudding clouds she came as a 
friend. Nevertheless, when my hand acci- 
dentally touched my brother's in the dark 
it stayed there, and we were glad to walk 
along hand in hand, a situation which we 
would have thought deplorable for two 
fellows of our years by day. It seemed to 
me that my brother was breathing shortly 
and noisily as if he were excited, but 
presently the surprising thought came to me 
that it might be my own breathing that I 
heard. As we drew near to Hay ward's Wood 
the moon retired behind a cloud, and stayed 
there. This was hardly friendly of her, for 
the wood was terribly dark, and the noise 
of our own stumblings made us pause in 
alarm again and again. When we stood still 
and listened all the trees seemed to be saying 
" Hush ! " 

Somehow we reached the pool at last, and 
stayed our steps on the bank expectantly. 
At first we could see nothing but shadows, 
but, after a while, we discovered that it was 
full of drowned stars, a little pale as though 


the water had extinguished some of their 
fire. And then, as we wondered at this, the 
moon shone through the branches overhead 
and lit the wood with a cool and mysterious 
radiance that reminded me oddly of the 
transformation scene in our last pantomime. 
My brother pulled his watch out of his 
pocket, but his hand shook so that he could 
hardly tell the time. " Five minutes more," 
he whispered hoarsely. I tried to answer 
him, and found that I could not speak. 

And then, as we waited breathlessly, we 
heard a noise among the undergrowth on 
the other side of the pool a noise, it seemed, 
of footsteps, that grew louder and louder in 
our excited ears, till it was as if all the 
armies of the world were tramping through 
the wood. And then . . . and then . . . 

When we stopped to get our breath half- 
way home we first discovered that neither 
of us had had presence of mind enough to 
wish. But we knew that there was no going 
back. We had had our chance, and missed 
it. But, even now, I do not doubt that it 
was a magic pool. 


HE changed with the seasons, and, like the 
seasons, was welcome in every mood. In 
spring he was forlorn and passionate in 
turn ; now fiercely eloquent, now tuneful 
with those little cheerful songs that seem in 
terms of human emotion to be the saddest 
of all. In summer he dreamed in sensuous 
and unambitious idleness, gladly conscious 
of the sunshine and warm winds and flower- 
smells, and using only languorous and gentle 
words. In autumn, with the dead leaves of 
the world about his feet, he became strangely 
hopeful and generous of glad promises of 
adventure and conquest. It seemed as 
though he found it easier to triumph when 
Nature had abdicated her jealous throne. 
But it was in the winter -time when he came 
into his own kingdom, and mastered his en- 
vironment and his passions to make the most 


joyful songs. Then he would lie at full 
length on the hearthrug, and we children, 
sitting in a rapt circle, fantastically lit by 
the fire, would listen to his stories, and know 
that they were the authentic wisdom. 

It was in vain that the grown-ups warned 
us against the fascinations of his society, 
telling us that dreamers came to no good 
end in a practical world. As well might 
the townsfolk of Hamelin, in Brunswick, 
have ordered their children to turn a deaf 
ear to the tune of the Pied Piper. We had 
studied life from a practical point of view 
between our games, and found it unsatisfy- 
ing ; this man brought us something in- 
finitely more desirable. He would come 
stepping with delicate feet, fearful of 
trampling on our own tender dreams, and 
he would tell us the enchanted stories that 
we had not heard since we were born. He 
told us the meaning of the stars and the 
significance of the sun and moon ; and, 
listening to him, we remembered that we 
had known it all once before in another 
place. Sometimes even we would remind 
him of some trivial incident that he had 


forgotten, and then he would look at us oddly 
and murmur sadly that he was getting very 
old. When the stories were over, and all 
the room was still ringing with beautiful 
echoes, he would stand erect and ask us 
fiercely whether we saw any straws in his 
hair. We would climb up him to look (for 
he was very tall), and when we told him 
that we could not find any he would say : 
" The day you see them there will be no 
more stories." We knew what the stories 
were worth to us, so we were always afraid 
of looking at his head for fear that we should 
see the straws and all our gladdest hours 
should be finished. 

His voice was all the music extant, and 
it was only by recalling it that our young 
ears could find that there was beauty in 
fine singing and melodiousness in the chaunt 
of birds. Yet when his words were eloquent 
we forgot the voice and the speaker, content 
to sacrifice our critical individualities to his 
inspiration till we were no more than dim 
and silent figures in the background of his 
tale. It was only in winter-time that he 
achieved this supreme illusion ; perhaps the 


firelight helped him, and the chill shadows 
of the world. In the summer his stories 
had the witchery of dreams ; their realism 
startled us, and yet we knew that they were 
not real. After listening to them through a 
hot afternoon we would stretch back into 
consciousness, as though we had been asleep ; 
his drowsy fancies lulled our personalities, 
but did not conquer them. The winter magic 
was of a rarer kind. Then even his silences 
became significant, for he brought us to 
so close an intimacy with his mind that his 
very thoughts seemed like words. 

It is idle to expect a child to believe that 
every grown-up person was a child once 
upon a time, for it is not credible that they 
could have forgotten so much. But this man 
was a child both in feeling and in under- 
standing. He knew the incidents that per- 
plexed us in those nursery legends that have 
become classics, and sometimes it was his 
pleasure to tell them to us again, having 
regard to our wakeful sympathies. He was 
the friend of all the poor, lost creatures of 
romance the giants whose humiliating lot 
it was to be defeated by any stripling lad, 


the dragons whose flaming strength was a 
derision when opposed to virtue in armour. 
He shared our pity for Antaeus and Caliban 
and Goliath of Gath, and even treated sor- 
cerers and wicked kings with reasonable 
humanity. Somehow, though we felt that 
it was wicked, we could not help being 
sorry for people when they were punished 
very severely. The very ease with which 
giants could be outwitted suggested that the 
great simple fellows might prove amiable 
enough if they were kindly treated, while it 
was always possible that dragons might turn 
out to be bewitched princes, if only the 
beautiful princesses would kiss them instead 
of sending heroes to kill them unfairly, with- 
out giving them an opportunity of explaining 
their motives. Our story-teller understood 
our scruples and sympathised with them, and 
in his versions every one had a chance, 
whether they were heroes or no. Even the 
best children are sometimes cruel, but they 
are never half so pitiless as the writers of 
fairy -stories. 

But better than any fairy-stories were the 
stories that he told us of our own lives, 


which under his touch became the wonderful 
adventures which they really were. He 
showed us that it was marvellous to get out 
of bed in the morning, and marvellous to get 
into bed at night. He made us realise the 
imaginative value of common things, and 
the fun that could be derived even from the 
performance of duties, by aid of a little 
make-believe. The grown-up folk would 
probably have derided his system, but he 
made us tolerate our lessons, and endure 
the pangs of toothache with some degree 
of fortitude. He had a short way with the 
ugly bogles with which thoughtless nurses 
and chance echoes from the horrors columns 
of newspapers had peopled the shadows of 
our life. We were no longer afraid of the 
dark when he had told us how friendly it 
could be to the distressed. Hitherto we had 
vainly sought to find the colours and sounds 
of romance in life, and, failing, had been 
tempted to sum up the whole business as 
tedious. After he had shown us how to do 
it, it was easy to see that life itself was 
a story as romantic as we cared to make it. 
Our daily official walks became gallant ex- 


peditions, and we approached arithmetic 
with a flaming sword. 

Can any childhood ever have known a 
greater wizard than this? And yet since 
that state does not endure for ever, it must 
surely have happened to us to seek for straws 
in his towering head once too often, had not 
death taken our kindly enchanter from our 
company, and thus spared us the bitter dis- 
covery that the one man who reconciled us 
to life was considered rather more than 
eccentric by an obtuse world. It is true 
that we noticed that the grown-up people 
were apt to treat him sometimes as if he 
were one Of us, but we felt that he merited 
this distinction, and did not find it strange. 
Nor did we wonder that he should tell stories 
aloud to himself lacking a wider audience, 
for we knew that if we had the power we 
should tell such stories to ourselves all day 
long. We did not only fail to realise that 
he was mad ; we knew that he was the only 
reasonable creature of adult years who ever 
came near us. He understood us and paid 
us the supreme compliment of allowing us 
to understand him. The world called him 


fantastic for actions that convinced us that 
he was wise, and, thanks to a fate that 
seemed at the time insensately cruel, the 
spell was never broken. 


WHEN the Christmas holidays are over, and 
pantomimes and parties are cleared away, 
there is usually a marked revival in a sport 
that has languished during those exciting 
weeks. A child who wished to play at 
boats, when the air was full of the smell 
of tangerine oranges and the glamour of the 
footlights, would not be tolerated in any 
decent schoolroom. But with the re- 
appearance of lessons there comes a sudden 
demand for walnut-shells and sealing-wax, 
and bath-night, a thing undesirable while 
the house is noisy with new tunes, becomes 
the cause of rivalry and passionate argu- 

So at least it fell in the days when child- 
hood was more than the kernel of an article. 
The first symptom of the new movement was 
an eager interest in dessert. We would entreat 

4 33 


the Olympians to forego nut-crackers and to 
use our new Christmas pocket-knives for the 
purpose of opening their walnuts, and we 
would regard the results with a keen and 
professional eye. Were they destined to be 
clippers, yachts notable in history, or mere 
utilitarian tubs to be laden with tipsy tin- 
soldiers and sunk ignominiously by brass 
cannon? We were all naval experts and 
our judgments were not often wrong. But 
even if a walnut-shell had the right racing 
lines, there remained the delicate operation 
of stepping the mast. The " blob " of 
sealing-wax had to be dropped in exactly 
the right place, and the whittled safety- 
match that served for a mast must be truly 
perpendicular or the craft would be lop- 
sided. The paper sail was as large as safety 
would permit. 

There followed regattas in a basin filled 
to the trim with water. The yachts raced 
from one side to the other, and some one, 
assumed neutral, blew with a level breath 
across the flood to supply the necessary wind. 
The reward of victory was a little coloured 
flag that was gummed to the sail of the 


successful boat. On a memorable day my 
Swallow beat a hitherto undefeated cham- 
pion in my eldest brother's Irene, a result 
the more astonishing that Irene's owner was 
himself filling the role of ^Eolus. I am glad 
to think it was Irene that was flung out of 
the window. 

Apart from these classic contests there 
were secret trials and naval reviews in 
private waters, and that intimate kind of 
navigation that took place in one's bath. 
This last was spiced with an agreeable 
element of risk, for a rash movement would 
send the whole fleet to the bottom of the 
sea ; but at the same time in no other way 
could an admiral have the elements so much 
under his control. Like Neptune, he could 
raise a storm at will, and when the ships had 
battled gallantly against terrible waves and 
icebergs of patent soap, a pair of pink feet 
would rise above the surface of the ocean, 
and the Fortunate Islands would greet the 
tired eyes of the mariners. It is a fine 
thing to sail about the world, but it is very 
good to be at home. 

Later on, as the weather grew warmer, we 


indulged in more adventurous, and let it 
be admitted, more enjoyable, sport. Walnut 
boats and paper junks ballasted with shot 
might be well enough for the cold months 
or wet afternoons, but when the summer 
called us out to play, our ambitious hearts 
desired weightier craft than these. Then 
the yachts that uncles had given us, which 
had been cruising peacefully on the playroom 
floor during the indoor weeks, were brought 
out and considered in their new aspect. 
There was always something at once thrilling 
and disappointing about these stately ships. 
The height of their masts, the intricacy of 
their rigging, and the little lines that marked 
the planks of their deck, filled us with 
pride, and made us seek the nearest pond 
with quick, elated steps. But these things 
might be as well admired indoors, and some- 
how these boats never sailed as well on any 
wakeful pond as they did on the waters of 
our dreams. There they were for ever 
tossing on the crests of enormous waves, 
and all night long their great masts went 
crashing by the board ; but on Pickhurst 
Pond they behaved with a staid monotony, 


and while we and the boats of our hands had 
as many moods as the spring, these official 
craft were content to perform their business 
of sailing with the conscientious precision 
of grown-up persons. 

There was more to be said for the modest 
sort of boat you would buy for sixpence 
or a shilling. They had a useless mast and 
sail (the boat capsized if you set it), seats 
that were annoying but easily removed, and 
sometimes, as a crowning piece of Philis- 
tinism, oars ! We would have scorned to 
give a moment's consideration to a rowing 
boat at any time. We wanted only craft 
that were fit to cruise with equal adroitness 
on boundless oceans and unhealthy tropic 
rivers, and, lacking a hold, where should 
we keep the rum and the pieces of eight? 
But if you threw away everything but the 
bare hull, and painted that black, you had 
a very sound basis for sensible boat- 
building. A tin railway carriage would make 
a cabin, a wooden brick the quarter-deck, 
and if you could find some lead for the 
keel you might give the vessel a real mast 
with which to strike the southern stars. 


But, after all, the best boats were the boats 
we built entirely ourselves. Our favourite 
materials were corks, empty match-boxes, and 
such wood as lies within the scope of a 
pocket-knife, and we would drive tintacks 
into the craft until it looked like a nursery 
cake, crowned with burnt currants. The 
resulting ships varied as to shape and size, 
but could be trusted to conduct themselves 
in the water with a charming eccentricity. 
Sometimes they seemed to skim the waves 
like birds, sometimes the water leaped through 
them with a laugh, and they sank down to 
join the minnows and the pebbles at the 
bottom of the stream. In the latter case 
the owner would lie flat on the bank with a 
sharp stone pressing into his chest, and feel 
for the lost craft in the cold, slippery waters ; 
for the rest of the morning his shirt-sleeve 
would cling damply to his skin, while the 
assembled experts considered the failure and 
made acute suggestions. 

The stream we called it a river on which 
we sailed these ships passed in its cheerful 
course through an iron pipe, and sometimes 
a vessel that had disappeared merrily under 


the dark arch would be seen no more of 
our eyes, though we waited at the other 
end of the passage perilous until our bodies 
grew chill in our sailor suits, and the mists 
came rolling up from the water-meadows. 
It was easy to crouch down by the mouth 
of the pipe, and hear the water lap-lapping 
in the dark against the echoing sides of the 
tunnel, but our ears could tell us nothing, 
and as we went home we would speculate in 
whispers as to the fate of the missing vessel. 
Had it foundered on some treacherous rock, 
or was there some mysterious outlet un- 
known to man, through which it had escaped 
us? Even while we spoke it might be 
nodding on merrily towards the night and 
the stars, through a new, strange country 
that no one could find in daylight fashion. 

In truth, there was no game like this, 
appealing alike to mind and body, and 
fraught with surprises and enchanting side- 
issues of play. We might launch our vessel 
at dawn for Babylon, and night would find 
it dreaming by some South Sea isle, or lying 
a shattered wreck on the coast of Brazil. 

Doubtless to the grown-up observer, who 


had seen the great sea dotted with little 
ships, our gutter mishaps and adventures on 
puddles were of small importance. But as 
becomes the children of an island race, we 
played this game with a strange earnestness, 
and though our boats were small, we knew 
that they were large enough for little boys 
to go roaming in through the long day. 
And that was all that mattered. 


LIKE most great movements in art, it had 
but a modest beginning. On a memorable 
day one of my brothers was looking in the 
window of a little toy -shop when he dis- 
covered some of those fascinating sheets of 
characters to which Stevenson has devoted 
a charming essay. He happened to have 
money in his pocket it was indeed a memor- 
able day), and he brought home his treasure- 
trove with the air of a capitalist who has 
made a wise investment. Schoolroom 
society approved his enterprise with enthu- 
siasm. We knew nothing about "The Wood- 
man's Hut," the play to which the characters 
in question belonged ; it was enough for 
us that these figures of men and women 
were clearly messengers from the Land of 
Romance, and their mysterious attitudes only 
added to the interest with which we regarded 


them. We got out our paint-boxes, and, as 
unconsciously we were all Post-Impression- 
ists, we soon made them more mysterious 

It will be remembered that Stevenson re- 
mained satisfied with this, which might be 
regarded as the costumier's work of the 
model theatre, but we were more ambitious. 
Our first theatre was a small packing-case 
without any sides, and in this our characters, 
mounted on cardboard and supplied with 
firewood supports, were quite contented to 
display their red legs and green bodies. Our 
scenery was indicated rather than drawn on 
brown paper with coloured chalks, and 
would, I think, have pleased Mr. Gordon 
Craig. Two Christmas-tree candles served 
for footlights, and, though we had no book 
of the words, we made them up as we went 
along, and did very well. It was strange 
how great a measure of illusion we achieved, 
although we ourselves moved the puppets 
and spoke their lines. The candles threw 
queer shadows across our faces, and it 
seemed as though deeper voices than ours 
echoed in the room. We were always being 


astonished by the eerie products of our own 
imagination when we were merely trying to 
amuse ourselves ; and the effect of our 
dramatic efforts was quite remote from any- 
thing that we had intended. I understand 
that older dramatists sometimes experience 
the same phenomenon. 

Our activities could not long escape the 
criticism of the grown-up people ; but rather 
to our surprise, for candles were quite illicit 
playthings, they contented themselves with 
a general caution as to the perils of fire, 
and a particular injunction concerning the 
dropping of candle-grease on the tablecloth. 
So we played with our theatre till Christ- 
mas, by which time the members of our 
stock company were more than a little 
battered and weary at the knees. Then there 
came a surprise. Included in the number 
of our presents were a little theatre with 
a real curtain that went up and down, and 
materials for three complete productions. 
This time we had not only the characters, 
but the books of words and scenery as well, 
and we prepared to do things on an unpre- 
cedented scale. As a result, after extraordi- 


nary labour in the scenic and costume 
departments, we were able to produce, on 
three successive nights, " Paul Clifford," 
"The Corsican Brothers," and "The Miller 
and his Men." The repertory theatre was 
fairly under way. 

First-nights were really thrilling in those 
days. The dignified deportment of our 
actors, as yet unspoiled by success, roused 
the audience to enthusiasm, and we did not 
weary of admiring simple stage effects that 
would have moved us to scornful laughter in 
after-days. Yet even in these early produc- 
tions there lurked the seeds of artistic dis- 
ruption. Already our appreciation of the 
gallant bearing of Paul Clifford passed all 
reasonable bounds, and threatened to develop 
into that hero-worship that proves fatal to 
the talents of any actor. Already we had 
an unwholesome craving for excessive 
realism in the staging of plays, and we made 
use of the ingenuity of our elders to drive 
Grindoff's sinister windmill in the first act 
of "The Miller and his Men." It might be 
said that our theatre, qud repertory theatre, 
was doomed from the start. 


Nevertheless, at least two seasons of good 
work were accomplished before our morbid 
imitation of Nature and the illimitable 
egotism of Paul Clifford finally succeeded 
in driving art from the stage. During that 
period we produced about fifteen new 
plays, and gave a large number of one- 
night revivals. Our repertory ranged from 
"Hamlet" to "Dick Whittington," and I 
think one pleased us as much as the other. 
This would have been more remarkable if 
Paul Clifford had not played the title-part 
in both plays. We had soon come to prefer 
him to any other of the heroes, and in con- 
sequence, whatever the play might be, he 
was bound to be there in his riding-boots 
and handsome yellow satin coat. This 
would have been well enough if he had been 
willing to keep his place, but he soon became 
as ubiquitous as an actor-manager. Owing 
to the number of roles that he was called 
upon to fill, we had his pasteboard present- 
ment in a hundred different attitudes, and 
on one occasion when a stage-crowd was 
required it was entirely composed of Paul 
Cliffords, and even then there were rows of 


forlorn Paul Cliffords in the wings for whom 
there was no room on the stage. This was 
the beginning of the end. We suffered from 
the worst excesses of the star system ; we 
began to be discontented when Paul was 
not on the stage, and we were prepared to 
boo if that dashing highwayman was not 
permitted to bluster across the most subtle 

About this time we deserted the old theatre 
that had been the scene of so many triumphs 
for a larger and far more elaborate one. 
We had long had gas footlights, but now 
our system of lighting was intricate enough 
to suit Mr. Arthur Collins. Indeed, when, 
years afterwards, I was allowed to explore 
the stage of Drury Lane, I found nothing to 
surprise me, save, perhaps, the electric 
switchboard, with its pretty display of 
diminutive electric lights. Our scenic sensa- 
tions were only surpassed by those of Mr. 
Bruce Smith. When we played a drama- 
tisation of " Hard Cash," the scuttled vessel 
sank in a sea of real water. The fountains 
in our Garden of Enchantment flung scented 
torrents into their moss -clad basins ; and 


when we sought to reproduce a burning 
house we succeeded in setting the theatre 
on fire. 

It will be understood that by that time 
we had come to rely on the grown-up people 
for assistance in producing plays, and we 
had substituted their perverted adult taste 
for our juvenile conceptions of drama. The 
old plays, with their homely characters and 
dignified simplicity of setting, no longer 
pleased us. We craved for a debauch of 
Paul Clifford, and every new production had 
to be more elaborate in its insentient 
mimicry of life than the one before. The 
inevitable happened. The more our stage- 
setting approximated to Nature, and the 
more Paul pirouetted in the limelight, the 
less we attained to that illusion which had 
been so easy to achieve on a packing-case 
stage with two little coloured candles for 
footlights. There came a day when Paul no 
longer interested us, and we felt that we 
had exhausted the possibilities of the sensa- 
tional. The theatre was closed, and when, 
many months afterwards, a vague curiosity 
led us to ask what had become of it, we 

learnt with but little regret that our elders 
had given it away to some little boy whose 
taste in drama was as yet unsophisticated. 
I wonder what he made of our real sea and 
our practicable fountains ! 

Not very long ago I was turning over 
some old books, when a small piece of card- 
board slipped from between the pages and 
fell to the ground. It was in the likeness 
of a man, a man dressed in riding -boots 
and yellow satin ; yet it was some moments 
before I realised that I was in the presence 
of the once great Paul Clifford. With recog- 
nition came something like remorse. It was 
no more than just to forgive his faults after 
so many years, and he really was a very 
good actor until an excess of praise turned 
his little pasteboard head. 

I looked round 'the library, and after due 
consideration took a volume of the Laureate's 
poems from the shelves, and laid the tired 
highwayman to rest between its pages. 

" Sleep on, brave Paul ! " I said softly. 
"No one will ever disturb you there." 

And now I have written his epitaph. 


POETS and careless, happy fellows like that 

may say what they like for the spring, but 

there are only two seasons in the year for 

children. The parties of Christmas appealed 

to our senses in a hundred pleasant ways. 

They shone with Jack Frost and Chinese 

lanterns and the gay gelatine from crackers ; 

they compressed our limbs in the pride of 

new, uncomfortable suits and tight, shiny 

shoes ; they tasted of burnt raisins and 

orange jelly ; they sang with frosty carols 

and sensible tunes and the agreeable din 

of penny musical instruments ; they smelt 

of Christmas-tree candles and tangerine 

oranges. Then there were pantomimes and 

large silver pieces from the pockets of 

millionaire uncles, and if all else failed, the 

possibility of snow. Certainly there was 

nothing the matter with winter. 

5 * 9 


Summer, too, had its fierce, immeasurable 
joys. This was the season of outdoor 
sports, hunting and boating and digging 
holes to New Zealand. There was cricket, 
real cricket, which means that you are out 
if you hit the ball into the next garden, 
and that you stop playing if you break a 
window, and there was hurling of javelins 
in wild shrubberies, and dabbling in silver 
brooks for elusive minnows. Later there 
would come long, adventurous journeys in 
rail way -trains, when, like wise travellers, 
we would cuddle provisions of buns and 
pears and tepid sandwiches in our laps. Our 
legs would be so stiff when we reached our 
destination that we would totter on the plat- 
form like old men, and our eyes would be 
weary with watching the fleeting world. 
But as the cab crept up the gritty hills we 
would see the ocean waiting for us to come 
and play with it, and everything else in life 
would be forgotten. The country, with its 
apple-trees and its pigs and its secret places, 
was not to be despised, but it was the sea 
that led us home to our dreams. 

Yet possibly the finest thing that the 


summer had to give us was the healthy, 
joyous sense of fatigue that comes from 
games. It was pleasant to drop on the lawn 
when cricket was over, and stay there, not 
wholly displeased with the scent of the 
flowers, looking into the blue sky until the 
gnats drove you in to tea. It was pleasant 
to lie on the beach, with the heat creeping 
up and down your face, and to let the sand 
trickle through your fingers, while the long 
waves whispered out to sea. It was pleasant 
to drowse in the hay after hunting buffaloes 
all the sunny afternoon. It was only at 
such moments, when the air had a savour 
of sleep, that we really felt conscious of 
youth as a desirable possession. 

A child's year would be divided abruptly 
into winter and summer, for youth is 
impatient of compromise, but as things are, 
there are spring and autumn to be reckoned 
with. For autumn, there is not much to be 
said. There were nuts and blackberries, and 
the sweet-scented fallen leaves, in which we 
would paddle up to our knees. But the sea- 
side brown was wearing off our legs, and 
night came so soon and with so harsh and 


boisterous a note. It was not bad when we 
happened to be feeling very brave to lie 
awake at night and hear the branches 
screaming when the wind hurt them. The 
sheer discomfort of the outer world made 
bed delicious. But the necessary courage 
for this point of view was rare, and normally 
we would wish the nights quieter and less 
exciting. The autumn wind was for ever 
fumbling at our nursery windows like a 
burglar, or creeping along the passages like 
a supernatural thing. Sometimes our hearts 
stopped beating while we listened. 

But of all the seasons of the year, spring 
is most oppressive to the spirit of childhood. 
The dear, artificial things that had made the 
winter lovely were gone, and the pastoral 
delights of the summer were still to come, 
yet Nature called us forth to a muddy, un- 
finished world. Then was the season of 
the official walk, a dreary traffic on nice, 
clean pavements, that placed everything in 
the world worth walking to out of bounds. 
A cold wind without the compensating 
advantage of snow would swing round the 
corners of streets, and we would feel as if 


we were wearing the ears and noses of 
other people. When we were not quarrel- 
ling we were sulking, and each was equally 
fatal, for the Olympians only needed a pre- 
text to make our days bitter with iron and 
quinine. And our quarrels, that at kinder 
seasons of the year were the regretted acci- 
dents of moments, lingered now from day 
to day, and became the source of fierce and 
lonely pride. If one of us, released for a 
minute from the wearing of the world's woes, 
made timid efforts to arrange a concerted game, 
he would become the object of general sus- 
picion, and his sociability would be regarded 
as a hypocritical effort to win the favour of 
the grown-up folk. The correct attitude was 
one of surly aloofness that spluttered once 
or twice a day into tearful rebellion against 
the interference of the authorities. It is 
insulting to give a man medicine when he 
tells you that he wishes he were dead. 

Of course, underlying these disorders was 
just that dim spirit of disquiet that has 
made this season of the year notable for the 
production of lyric poetry. We had no 
means of expressing the thing that troubled 


our blood. Indeed, we ourselves did not 
know what was the matter, though this 
ignorance did not make our discomfort less. 
Time, who in the glare of a Christmas party 
or on the shore of a summer sea could run 
faster than we, seemed to take a spiteful 
pleasure in lingering in this unattractive 
place. And although our attitude towards 
life appeared to have been determined for 
us by Fate, when the long day ended and 
we thought over things in bed, we had not 
even the satisfaction of being proud of our 
day's work. We would vow silently to our 
pillows that things should go better to- 
morrow, but alas ! there might be many, 
morrows before summer" brought peace to 
our blood. 

It is not only children whom the spring 
winds stir to madness, but a man has striven 
but poorly if he cannot contrive to bear in 
patience with -this vernal torment of living, 
or even to turn it to some useful purpose 
in his work. But children, who can only 
express themselves in their play, must pay 
for the joys of the coming summer in moods 
speechless and almost too bitter for their 


years. In sympathy with all the green, 
quick things of Nature, their blood is in a 
state of passionate unrest for which their 
minds can supply no adequate reason, and 
they are unhappy in consequence. But I 
am far from blaming the Olympians for the 
attitude they adopted in this difficult busi- 
ness. They kept a wise eye on our health, 
and if our naughtiness became outrageous, 
we were punished. For the rest, as they 
could not give us lips of silver and a pipe 
of gold with which to chant the amazing 
gladness of the spring, I do not see what 
they could do. 


THEY were deep and wide and tall, and filled 
as to the lower shelves with a number of 
objects which no child of spirit could find 
interesting any longer. Here were the 
battered fragments of the presents of bygone 
birthdays, of which the true ownership was 
dubious, because we none of us would con- 
fess that we had ever been young enough 
to receive such childish gifts. Here also 
were foolish trifles from forgotten Christmas- 
trees, useless objects employed by the 
fraudulent to give their trees a deceitful 
appearance of wealth. Then there were the 
presents that were too useful : the elevating 
gifts of aunts and the improving offerings 
of god-parents, things that either trespassed 
on the arid land of lessons or presumed 
some grown-up virtue which the recipient 
neither had nor coveted. The Olympians 


would refer to these dull possessions in the 
aggregate as " the children's toys " ; but we 
knew better. Our true treasures, the things 
we loved, never saw the inside of that 
unromantic depository save through the 
thoughtless tidying of our rulers. The 
works of watches and mechanical toys, our 
soldiers and cannon of brass, our fleet of 
walnut boats and empty cartridge-cases 
these things and their brothers slept under 
our pillows or in the very private card- 
board boot-box under the bed. By day 
those that were being employed were spread 
about the floor or strained our pockets to 
bursting-point. The people who were too 
old to know any better referred to them 
contemptuously as " rubbish," a word we 
privately reserved for their aggravating 
presents. And though the long interval 
that separated dinner and tea on wet days 
might weary us of our immediate jewels, 
it was not in the cupboard that we sought 
relief from Boredom. It is true that now 
and again some Gentleman Adventurer 
would climb on a chair and investigate 
the shelves that were supposed to be beyond 


our reach, to return with piratical spoil of 
matches and cotton and citrate of magnesia, 
a cate that tingles pleasantly on the tongue 
of youth. But even from this point of view 
it could not compare with the rich cupboards 
of the kitchen and the dining-room, those 
Meccas of piracy that filled our dreams with 
monstrous raisins and pickled onions, a suc- 
cessful pilgrimage to which would assure a 
man the admiring homage of his comrades 
for days to come. 

In short, we were content to regard the 
toy-cupboard as a harmless hobby of the 
grown-up people, and we were not far wrong. 
It was not for them to understand that one 
general cupboard could not hold the real 
treasures of four children, whose sense of 
possession was keen even to the point of 
battle. It was a dustbin for toys that had 
been found out, and we would have scorned 
to display its sordid contents to our friends. 
To them, if they were worthy, were revealed 
the true mysteries, the things that we fought 
for and made into dreams, the sun and moon 
and stars of our imaginative heaven. Senti- 
mental elders might greet it with tears for 


their lost youth if they wished ; we received 
their congratulations calmly, and kept our 
pity for their insanity to ourselves. 

In truth, the thing was a symbol for all 
our relations with grown-up people. They 
always seemed so sensible and yet they could 
not understand. If we fell off the banisters 
on to our heads they would overwhelm us 
with sympathy, when every one knows that 
a big lump on the head is a thing to be 
proud of. But if a well-meaning aunt in- 
sisted on reading to us for a whole afternoon 
in the horse-chestnut season we were 
expected, and even commanded, to be 
grateful for this undesired favour. And 
so it was in the matter of toys. Sometimes, 
by accident as it were, they gave us sensible 
things that we really wanted. But as a rule 
their presents were concrete things that gave 
our imaginations no chance. We only 
wanted something to make a " think " about, 
but few of the official presents were suitable 
for this purpose. One of the gifts that de- 
lighted me most as a child was a blue glass 
dish, large and shallow. Filled with water 
it became a real blue sea, very proper for 


the navigation of smaller craft. Empty and 
subverted it became the dome of an azure 
city. And holding it before my eyes I 
would see a blue world, a place the exist- 
ence of which I had previously only sus- 
pected. An ocean, a city, and a world 
combine to make a better present than a 
commonplace toy. Once in a blue moon I 
have seen strange sights, and something of 
the glamour of that dish is with me 
even now. 

Naturally, in course of time an uncommon 
significance became attached to such things 
as this, and I should have no more thought 
of keeping my blue sea in the same cupboard 
as my brother's maxim gun than he would 
have allowed that excellent weapon to be 
the bedfellow of my sister's famous one- 
legged nigger doll. We realised far better 
than our elders the meaning of their 
favourite shibboleth, " a place for every- 
thing " ; we knew that the sea air would 
rust a cannon, and that poor Dorothy could 
swim but poorly with her one dusky leg. 
So we tacitly left the cupboard as a place 
wherein the grown-ups could keep the toys 


they gave us to please themselves, and found 
exclusive and more sympathetic hiding-places 
for our treasures. Now and again a toy 
might pass through both stages of existence. 
Mechanical toys did not amuse us at all, until 
the donors were tired of playing with them, 
and we might pull them to pieces and make 
them our very own. And the costly gifts 
of uncles were useless until the authorities 
had ceased to see that we took care of them. 
But these doubtful cases apart, we would 
divide our presents into their respective 
groups as soon as we had removed the 
wrappings. ''This and this can go into the 
cupboard, but this shall go to bed with me 
to-night ! " It was not the person who 
" understands " children who was most 
fortunate in the choice of gifts. 

For the rest, with unconscious satire, we 
constituted the toy-cupboard the state prison 
of the nursery. Refractory dolls and kittens, 
and soldiers awaiting court-martial, repented 
their crimes in its depressing gloom, and this 
was really the only share it had in our 
amusements. Beyond that it stood merely 
for official " play," a melancholy traffic in 


which we never indulged. Its shelves were 
crowded with the illusions of grown-up 
people, and, if we considered it at all, it 
was in the same aspect in which we were 
wont to regard them. They were obviously 
well-meaning, but somehow or other they 
lacked understanding, and the nursery cup- 
board was full in consequence. 


I MET him first at Lord's, the best place, 
perhaps, in all London for making acquaint- 
ances and even friends. Even if he had not 
worn a light suit of clothes that drew the 
critical eye inevitably to his monstrous girth 
he would have been conspicuous as occupy- 
ing with difficulty the space provided for 
two persons on an afternoon when seats were 
at a premium. But though I own to no 
prejudice against flesh in itself, it was not his 
notable presence that induced me to speak 
to him, but rather the appealing glances that 
he threw to right and left of him when he 
thought to have detected that fine wine of 
the game which, tasted socially, changes a 
cricket match to a rare and solemn festival. 
Such an invitation is one that no one for 
whom cricket is an inspiration can refuse, 
and it was natural that thereafter we should 



praise and criticise in wise and sympathetic 

The acquaintance thus begun warmed to 
intimacy at the Oval and Canterbury, and 
I began to seek his easily recognisable figure 
on cricket-grounds with eagerness, to feel 
a pang of disappointment if he was not there. 
For though to his careless eye his great 
moonlike face might suggest no more than 
good-natured stupidity, I had soon discovered 
that this exuberance of form barely con- 
cealed a delicate and engaging personality, 
that within those vast galleries of flesh there 
roamed the timid spirit of a little child. I 
have said that to the uncritical his face might 
seem wanting in intelligence, but it was 
rather that the normal placidity of his 
features suggested a lack of emotional 
sensitiveness. Save with his eyes and it 
needed experience to read their message 
he had no means of expressing his minor 
emotions, no compromise between his wonted 
serenity and the monstrous phenomenon of 
his laughter, that induced a facial metamor- 
phosis almost too startling to convey an 
impression of mirth. If normally his face 


might be compared with a deep, still pool, 
laughter may be said to have stirred it up with 
a stick, and the consequent ripples seemed 
to roll to the very extremities of his body, 
growing in force as they went, so that his 
hands and feet vibrated in humorous ecstasy. 
Later, when, in one of his quaint inter- 
rogative moods, he showed me a photograph 
of himself as a child, I was able to give 
form to the charming spirit that Nature had 
burdened with this grievous load. I saw 
the picture of a strikingly handsome little 
boy, with dark, wide eyes and slightly parted 
lips that alike told of a noble sense of 
wonder. This, I felt, was the man I knew, 
whose connection with that monstrous shape 
of flesh had been so difficult to trace. Yet 
strangely I could recognise the features of 
the boy in the expansive areas of the man. 
In the light of the photograph he resembled 
one of those great cabbage-roses that a too 
lavish season has swollen beyond all flower- 
like proportions, yet which are none the less 
undeniably roses. Others might find him 
clumsy, elephantine, colossal ; thenceforward 
he was for me clearly boyish. 



His voice varied more in tone and quality 
than that of any other man I have ever 
met, and over these variations he seemed to 
have little control ; and this, too, made it 
very difficult for strangers to detect the 
trippings and hesitancies, gentle, wayward, 
and infinitely sensitive, of his childlike tem- 
perament. Within the limits of one simple 
utterance he would achieve sounds re- 
sembling the drumming of sudden rain on 
galvanised iron and the ecstatic whistlings 
of dew-drunk birds. It was sometimes diffi- 
cult to follow the purport of his speech for 
sheer wonder at the sounds that slid and 
leaped and burst from his lips. His voice 
reminded me of a child strumming on some 
strange musical instrument of extraordinary 
range and capacity which it had not learned 
how to play. His laughter was ventriloquial 
and rarely bore any accountable relationship 
to the expressions of mirth of ordinary men. 
It was like an explosive rendering of one 
of those florid scales dear to piano-tuners, 
but sometimes it suggested rather an earth- 
quake in his boots. 

He dwelt in a little flat that seemed like 


the upper floor of a doll's-house when re- 
lated to its proprietor, and here it was his 
delight to dispense a hospitality charmingly 
individual. His meals recalled nothing so 
much as the illicit feasts held in school 
dormitories, and when he peered curiously 
into his own cupboards he always looked 
as if he were about to steal jam. He would 
produce viand after viand with the glee of 
a successful explorer, and in terms of his 
eager hospitality the most bizarre cates 
appeared congruous and even intimately con- 
nected, so that at his board grown men would 
eat like schoolboys, with the great careless 
appetite of youth. 

He had a fine library and a still finer 
collection of mechanical toys, which were 
for him a passion and a delight. It was 
pleasant to see him set some painted piece 
of clockwork careering on the hearthrug, 
stooping over it tenderly, with wondering 
eyes, and hands intent to guard it from 
disaster. It was pleasant, too, to hear him 
recite Swinburne, of whom he was a 
passionate admirer ; for, though his voice 
would be as rebellious as ever, his whole 

body would thrill and pulse with the music 
of the poet. He always touched books softly 
because he loved them. Of bonfires he spoke 
reverently, though a London flat hardly lent 
itself to their active exploitation ; and I 
remember that he told me once that nothing 
gave him a keener sense of what he had 
lost in growing up than the scent of burning 
twigs and leaves. Yet if he felt this loss, 
what should it have been for us who had 
come so much farther than he ! 

Himself a child, he was beloved of 
children and treated by them as an equal ; 
but I never knew another child who was 
so easily and continuously amused. The 
Hippodrome, the British Museum, the Tower 
of London, and the art of Messrs. Maskelyne 
and Devant alike raised in him the highest 
enthusiasm, which he expressed with charm- 
ing but sometimes embarrassing freedom. 
Alone of all men, perhaps, he found the 
Royal Academy wholly satisfying, and it 
could be said of him truly that if he did 
not admire the picture he would always like 
the frame. He had a huge admiration for 
any one who did anything, and he liked 
riding in lifts. 


Though he treated women with elaborate 
courtesy, their society made him self-con- 
scious, and he, who could direct his body 
featly enough in a crowded street, was apt 
to be clumsy in drawing-rooms. Perhaps 
it was for this reason that they had appar- 
ently played no marked part in his life, and 
I may be wrong in attaching any special 
significance to a phrase he made one quiet 
evening in his flat. We had been speaking 
of the latest sensation in our group of mutual 
acquaintances, of the marriage of Phyllis, 
daintiest and most witty of cricket-lovers, 
to a man in whom the jealously critical 
eyes of her friends could perceive no charm ; 
but the conversation had dwindled to silence 
when he said, " Surely his love can make 
any man lovely ! " 

Then, as if the subject were closed, he 
fell to speaking of his latest pocket-knife with 
boyish animation ; but the phrase dwelt in 
my mind, though the image of the brave 
boy with wide eyes and lips parted in wonder 
was all that I ever knew of the man who 
made it. 


WHEN we were boys there was no part of 
the Christmas festivities to which we looked 
forward more eagerly than the singing of 
carols from house to house on Christmas 
Eve. If the night fell wild and rainy, we 
had to abandon our tuneful journey and 
content ourselves with singing indoors. But 
if it was a dry night, we set forth joyfully, 
even though a disquieted moon and inat- 
tentive stars foretold a wet Christmas. Our 
hearts were lighter than men's hearts can 
be, as we clattered down the lanes, fortified 
by a hot supper and possibly a scalding 
tumblerful of mulled claret. We would 
always start at the houses of friends, and 
then, made bold by success, we would sing 
our glad tidings to any house which had a 
lit window. For the credit of human nature 
it may be said that we were made welcome 



wherever we went. Sometimes people offered 
us money, which our code forbade us to 
accept, though we should have liked it well 
enough ; more frequently we were asked to 
come in and have something to eat or drink, 
offers with which even the infinite capacity 
of youth could by no means cope. If the 
night was frosty it was pleasant to toast 
ourselves for a minute or two in front of 
the fire before going out again into a world 
of frozen ruts, sparkling hedgerows, and 
mysterious shadows, wherein we felt our- 
selves veritable figures of romance. 

And, indeed, we ourselves sang better than 
we knew. However cheerfully and noisily 
we might undertake the expedition, it was 
not long before we became aware that other 
spirits were abroad. The simple words and 
merry tunes which we sang suddenly became 
wonderfully significant. Between the verses 
we heard the sheep calling on far hills while 
the shepherd kings rode down to Bethlehem 
with their gifts. The trees and fields and 
houses took up the chant, and our noises 
were blended with that deep song of the 
Universe which the new ears of the young 


hear so often and so clearly. When our carol 
was over there would fall a great silence 
that seemed to our quickened senses to be 
but a gentler and sweeter music of hope 
and joy. As we passed from one house to 
the next we spoke to each other in whispers 
for fear we should break the spell that held 
the night enchanted. Even as we heard 
other noises when we sang, so now we heard 
the sound of other feet that trod the same 
glad road as our own. From being a half- 
dozen of little boys come out to have some 
fun on Christmas eve, we had become a 
small section of a great army. Tramp, 
tramp, the joyful feet fell before and behind 
us along the road, and when we stopped to 
sing, the whole night thrilled into a trium- 
phant ecstasy of song. On such nights the 
very earth, it seemed, sang carols. 

It is, perhaps, our vivid recollection of 
the glories of those memorable Christmas 
Eves that leads us to be gentle with the little 
boys and girls who sing at our door to-night. 
We have all listened to the eloquent persons 
who can prove that Christmas is not what 
it used to be. They point to the decadence 


of pantomime, the decay of the waits and 
mummers, and the democratic impudence of 
those who demand Christmas-boxes. Well, 

it may be , but children do like modern 

pantomimes in spite of the generalisations 
of critics ; and though a Salvation Army band 
is an unpicturesque substitute for such a 
village orchestra as is described in " Under 
the Greenwood Tree," it at least satisfies the 
ear of the sentimentalist at two o'clock of 
a frosty morning. That Christmas-boxes are 
a nuisance is no new discovery. We find 
Swift grumbling to Stella about them exactly 
two hundred years ago. Mummers, we are 
told, are still to be found in the country ; 
five years back we saw them ourselves and 
were satisfied that they had learnt their 
rather obscure rhymes from their fathers 
before them, and not from any well-mean- 
ing society for faking old customs. 

This said, it must be admitted that carol - 
singers are not what they were. Of the 
long procession of ragged children who have 
sung " While shepherds watched their flocks 
by night " at our gate this December, not 
one had taken the trouble to learn either 


the words or the tune accurately. When 
asked to sing some other carol they broke 
down, and it was apparent that they were 
trusting to their hungry and thinly clad 
appearance rather than to their singing as 
a means to obtain alms from the charitable. 
Sometimes this we fear is really a modern 
note the^ father was waiting in the back- 
ground to collect the takings ! It is rather 
difficult to know what to do in such cases, 
for the children may be punished if they 
are not successful ; and yet the practice of 
sending insufficiently clad children into the 
streets on a winter's night is hardly to be 

Nevertheless, though the abuse is manifest, 
we would hesitate to say that the custom 
of singing carols at our doors should be 
stopped. It is difficult to read the heart 
of a child aright, but it seems to us at least 
possible that a few of the children win more 
than a mere handful of pennies from their 
singing. Though they mumble their words 
to a tune they only half remember, it is 
not likely that the spirit that made wonderful 
the Christmas Eves of long ago shall alto- 


gether pass them by. Surely the night con- 
spires with lights of the world to enchant 
them, and for their own ears their voices 
achieve beauty beyond the measure of mortal 

In truth, this is a dream that we can ill 
afford to spare. It seems a pity, however, 
that the children are not taught carol-sing- 
ing at school, especially as they are now 
often taught, to our great content, the old 
games and dances. Many of the older carols 
are really beautiful, both in the homely 
simplicity of their words and in the un- 
affected charm of the airs to which they 
are set. The desire of the average child 
for song is extraordinary as extraordinary, 
perhaps, as the regrettable contempt of the 
average adult for poetry. Last year we 
were present at the dress rehearsal of the 
pantomime at Drury Lane, and we heard a 
theatreful of poor children sing the music- 
hall ditties of the hour with wonderful spirit 
and intensity. Our emotions were mixed. 
Mingled with the natural pleasure that they 
should be enjoying themselves was something 
of regret for the sad lives that so small a 


treat should rouse to ecstasy. Afterwards we 
felt sorry that the children had nothing 
better to sing. We have no prejudice against 
music-hall songs in general. They are not 
as intelligent as they might be, but they 
serve their time in pleasing, harmlessly 
enough, a number of people who also are 
not as intelligent as they might be. But 
somehow the lyres of little singing children 
deserve better fare than this. We look 
forward to a time when they will have it. 


THERE were two rugs in the library, and 
for some time we used to dispute the 
vexed question of their relative merits. 
^Esthetically, there was something to be said 
for both of them. The rug that stood by 
the writing-desk from which father wrote 
to the newspapers was soft and furry ; 
indeed, it was almost as pleasant a couch as 
the sofa with the soft cushions in the draw- 
ing-room, which was taboo. Moreover, it 
leant itself very readily to such fashionable 
winter sport as bear -hunting, providing as 
it did a trackless prairie, a dangerous marsh, 
or the quarry itself as the adventure 
required. The joys of the other rug were 
of a calmer kind, and were, perhaps, chiefly 
due to its advantageous position before the 
fire. It was pleasant to toast oneself on a 
winter evening and trace with idle fingers 



the agreeable deviations of its pattern. 
Sometimes it might be the ground plan of 
a make-up city, with forts and sweet-shops 
and palaces for our friends ; sometimes it 
would be a maze, and we would pursue, with 
bated breath, the vaulted passages that led 
to the dread lair of the Minotaur. But such 
plots as these were of passive, rather than 
active, interest. Reviewing the argument 
dispassionately, Fenimore Cooper may have 
had a slight advantage over Nathaniel Haw- 
thorne ; bear -hunting may have been a little 
more popular than the dim excitements of 
Greek myth. 

But while the discussion was at its height, 
there dawned in the East the sun that was 
to prove fatal to Perseus and the Deerslayer 
alike. I do not know from which of our 
uncles " The Arabian Nights " first came to 
an enraptured audience ; but I am sure that 
an uncle must have been responsible for its 
coming, for as a gift it was avuncular in 
its splendour. We quickly realised that the 
world had changed, and took the necessary 
steps to welcome our new guest. The old 
lamp in the hall that had graced the illicit 


doings of pirates and smugglers in the past 
was thenceforward the property of Aladdin ; 
a strange bottle that had been Crusoe's 
served to confine the unfortunate genie ; and 
with quickening pulses we discovered that 
in the fireside rug we possessed no less a 
treasure than the original magic carpet. 

I must explain that we were not like those 
fortunate children of whom Miss Nesbit 
writes with such humorous charm. To us 
there fell no tremendous adventures ; we 
might polish Aladdin's lamp till it shone like 
the moon without gaining a single concrete 
acid-drop for our pains. But the "Arabian 
Nights " gave us all that we ever thought 
of seeking either in books or toys in those 
uncritical days a starting-point for our 
dreams. And this, I take it, is the best thing 
that a writer can give a child, and it was 
for lack of this that we considered the 
works of Lewis Carroll silly, while finding 
one of the books of Miss Molesworth I wish 
I could recall its name a masterpiece of 
fancy and erudition. 

So when the din of the schoolroom did 
not suit my mood, or the authorities were 


unduly didactic, I would slip away to the 
twilit library and guide the magic carpet 
through the delicate meadows of my dreams. 
The fire would blaze and crackle in the grate 
and fill my eyes with tears, so that it was 
easy to fancy myself in a sparkling world 
of sunshine. And from the shadows of the 
room little creatures would creep out to 
touch my glowing cheeks with cool, soft 
fingers, or to pluck timidly at the sleeve of 
my coat. I did not endeavour to give these 
shy companions of the dark any definite 
place in my universe. Their sympathetic 
reticence was reassuring in that room of 
great leaping shadows, and I was glad that 
they should keep me company in the black- 
ness, a thing so terrible when I woke up at 
night in my bed. Sometimes, perhaps, I 
wondered how they could bear to live in the 
place where nightmare was ; but for the 
rest I accepted their society gladly and with- 
out question. There was plenty of room on 
the carpet for such quiet fellows, and if they 
liked to accompany me on my travels I, at 
least, would not prevent them. 

It did not occur to me at the time, as 


it certainly does now, that I should never 
again be so near to fairyland as I was then. 
I was inclined to be sceptical concerning 
the actual existence of the supernatural, 
though I recognised that a judicious accept- 
ance of its theories set a new kingdom 
beneath one's feet for play. And it is only 
now that I realise how wonderfully vivid 
my dreams were, with what zest of timid 
life the little shadow-folk thrilled and 
trembled round me. It is true that I 
remained conscious of my normal environ- 
ment ; the fire, the dark room, and the 
bookcases were all there, and even a kind 
of quiet sense of the World beyond the Door, 
the hall and the passages and my brothers 
and sisters at their quarrels. But it was 
as if these things had become merely an 
idea in my mind, while my feet were set 
on the pleasant roads of a new world. The 
thing that I had hoped became true ; and 
the truth that I had been taught lingered 
in my mind only as a familiar story, a busi- 
ness of second-hand emotions, neither very 
desirable nor very interesting. The little 
folk gathered and whispered round me in 



the dark, and there was full day in the world 
that was my own. 

It was hard to leave that world for this 
other place, which even now I cannot under- 
stand ; but when some errant Olympian or 
righteously indignant brother had dragged 
me from my lair, I did not attempt to 
defend myself from the charge of moodiness. 
I had no words to tell them what they had 
done, and I could only stand blinking 
beneath the light of the gas in the hall, and 
endeavour to recall their wholly tiresome 
rules and regulations for the life of youth. 
Dimly I knew that my right place was 
before the fire in the library, and I 
wondered whether the little folk could 
use the Magic Carpet without me, or 
whether they stayed expectant in the 
shadows, like me, a little lonely, and a little 
chill. But in those days moodiness was 
only a lesser crime than sulkiness, and I 
had perforce to fold up my fancies and pass, 
an emotional bankrupt, into the unsym- 
pathetic world of the playroom. To- 
morrow, perhaps, the Magic Carpet might 
be mine again ; meanwhile, I would exist. 


Peter Pan has asked us a good many times 
whether we believe in fairies. It is, of 
course, a matter of faith, to be accepted or 
denied, but not to be discussed. For my 
part, I think of a little boy nodding on a 
rug before the fire on many a winter's even- 
ing, and I clap my hands. Gratitude could 
do no less. 


I DO not know that at any time Hastings 
is a very lively place. The houses have 
acquired a habit of being vacant, and even 
the front, with its bath-chairs, its band- 
stands that are silent on Sundays, and its 
seats upon which one may not smoke, is 
more suggestive of Puritans and invalids 
than of pleasure. If Time should suddenly 
drop a week from the due order of days, 
it is easy to imagine that those bath -chairs, 
those unfragrant shelters, those much- 
labelled houses would startle the dreaming 
tourists with vacant faces of dead men. But 
when in late March the day has squandered 
its gold, and the earth is saddened with the 
gentle grey ness of the dusk, when, more- 
over, the cheerful sea has deserted the shore, 
creeping far out to leave dull acres of un- 
trodden sand, waste and bitter with salt, a 



man might surely be forgiven if he cried 
aloud against the extreme cruelty of Nature, 
the timid injustice of man. 

Being of Anglo-Saxon blood, I did not give 
definite expression to the melancholy which 
the quenched seascape had invoked. I con- 
tented myself with leaning on the rail, and 
sneering at the art of the cripple who had 
made mathematically exact scratchings of 
Windsor Castle and the Eddystone Light- 
house on the sand. There was something 
almost humorously impertinent about that 
twisted figure with one foot bowing and 
hopping for pennies in front of a terrible 
back-cloth of dreamy grey. How could a 
man forget the horrors of infinite space, and 
scratch nothings on the blank face of the 
earth for coppers? His one foot was bare 
so that his Silver -like activities might not 
spoil his pictures, and when he was not 
hopping he shivered miserably. As I saw 
him at the moment he stood very well for 
humanity sordid, grotesque, greedy of mean 
things, twisted and bruised by the pitiless 
hand of Nature. 

And then in a flash there happened one of 


those miracles which rebuke us when we 
lack faith. Through the shadows which 
were not grey but purple there burst a 
swarm of children running on light feet 
across the sands. They chased each other 
hither and thither, stooped to gather shells 
and seaweed, and inspected the works of 
the cripple with outspoken admiration. Re- 
garding my mournful and terrible world in 
detail, they found it beautiful with pink 
shells and tangled seaweed and the gallant 
efforts of men. So far from being terrified 
or humiliated by the sombre wastes of sand 
and sky, they made of the one a playing- 
ground, and woke the other with echoes of 
their shrill laughter. Perhaps they found 
that the sea was rather larger than the 
Serpentine, perhaps they thought that the 
sands were not so well lit as Kingsway ; but, 
after all, they were making holiday, and at 
such a time things are different. They 
laughed at space. 

For these were London children, and all 
the resources of civilisation had not been 
able to deprive them of that sense of propor- 
tion which we lose with age. The stars are 


small and of little importance, and even the 
sun is not much larger than a brandy-ball. 
But a golden pebble by the seashore is a 
treasure that a child may hold in its hand ; 
and it is certain that never a grown-up one 
of us can own anything so surely. We may 
search our memories for sunsets and tresses 
of dead girls, but who would not give all 
their faded fragrance for one pink shell and 
the power to appreciate it? So it was that 
I had found the world wide and ugly and 
terrible, lacking the Aladdin's lamp of imag- 
ination, which had shown the children that 
it was a place of treasure, with darkness to 
make the search exciting. They flitted about 
the beach like eager moths. 

Yet on these children Civilisation had 
worked with her utmost cunning, with her 
most recent resource. For they were little 
actors and actresses from Drury Lane, tour- 
ing in a pantomime of their own ; wise 
enough in the world's ways to play grown-up 
characters with uncommon skill, and bred 
in the unreality of the footlights and the 
falsehood of grease-paints. Nevertheless, 
coming fresh from the elaborate make -belief 


of the theatre and the intoxicating applause, 
they ran down to the sea to find the 
diamonds and pearls that alone are real. If 
this is not wisdom I know not where wisdom 
lies, and, watching them, I could have 
laughed aloud at the thought of the critics 
who have told me that the life of the stage 
makes children unnatural. There are many 
wise and just people who do not like to 
see children acting, forgetting perhaps that 
mimicry is the keynote of all child's play, 
and that nothing but this instinct leads 
babies to walk upright and to speak with 
their tongues. Whether they are on the 
stage or not, children are always borrowing 
the words and emotions of other people, 
and it is a part of the charm of childhood 
that through this mask of tricks and phrases 
the real child peeps always into the eyes 
and hearts of the elect. 

And this is why I know nothing more 
delightful than the spectacle of a score of 
children playing at life on the stage. They 
may have been taught how to speak and 
how to stand, and what to do with their 
hands ; they may know how to take a 


prompt, and realise the importance of dress- 
ing the stage ; every trick and mannerism 
of the grown-up actor or actress may be 
theirs ; yet, through their playing there will 
sound the voice of childhood, imaginative, 
adventurous, insistent, and every perform- 
ance will supply them with materials for a 
new game. So it was with these children, 
whose sudden coming had strewn the melan- 
choly beach with pearls. I had seen them 
in the dimness of a ballet -room under Drury 
Lane Theatre ; now, with a coin, I bought 
the right to see them on a stage built with 
cynical impertinence in the midst of the 
intolerant sea. The play, indeed, was the 
same, and the players, but the game was 
different, The little breaks and falterings 
which the author had not designed, the only 
half -suppressed laughings which were not in 
the prompt-copy, bore no relationship, one 
might suppose, to the moral adventures of 
Mother Goose. But far across the hills the 
spring was breaking the buds on the lilac, 
and far along the shore the sea was casting 
its jewels, and even there in the theatre I 
could see the children standing on tiptoe to 


pick lilac, and stooping on the sands to 
gather pearls. They did not see that they 
were in a place of lank ropes and 
unsmoothed boards soiled with the dust 
of forgotten pageants and rendered hideous 
by the glare of electric lights ; and they 
were right. For in their eyes there shone 
only that place of adventure which delights 
the feet of the faithful, whether they tread 
the sands, or the stage, or the rough cobbles 
of Drury Lane. To the truly imaginative a 
theatre is a place of uncommon possibilities ; 
our actors and actresses, and even our lime- 
light-men, are not imaginative, and so, I 
suppose, they find it ugly. The game is with 
the children. 

And truly they play it for what it is worth, 
and they are wise enough to know that it is 
worth all things, alike on the boards of the 
theatre and on the wider, but hardly less 
artificial, stage of civilised life. We who 
are older tremble between our desire for 
applause and our unconquerable dread of 
the angers of the critical gods and the gaping 
pit, and it is for this reason that every 
bitter-wise adult knows himself to be little 


better than a super, a unit of a half-intelli- 
gent chorus, who may hope at best to echo 
with partial accuracy the songs and careless 
laughters of the divine players. There is 
something pathetic in the business ; for we, 
too, were once stars, and thought, finely 
enough, to hold the heavens for ever with 
our dreams. But now we are glad if the 
limelight shines by accident for a moment 
on our faces, or if the stage-manager gives 
us but one individual line. We feel, for all 
the sad fragrance of our old programmes 
and newspaper-cuttings, that it is a privilege 
to play a part in the pageant at all. The 
game is with the children ; but if we are 
wise, there is still somewhere at the back 
of the stage a place where each one of us 
can breathe the atmosphere of enchantment 
and dream the old dreams. No Arcadia is 
ever wholly lost. 


WHEN I hear grown-up people discussing the 
University Boat Race I smile sadly and hold 
my peace. They may say what they like 
about the latest Oxford trial, or the average 
weight per man of the Cambridge crew, 
but deep in my heart there stays the con- 
viction that they are making a ludicrous 
mistake in speaking about the Boat Race 
at all. Once I knew all about it, and even 
now I think I could put them right if I 
wished. But what is the use of arguing 
with persons who, under the absurd pretext 
of fairness, pretend to find praiseworthy 
features in both crews? Even the smallest 
boy knew better than that in the days when 
the Boat Race was really important. I will 
not say that there did not exist weaklings 
even then, who wobbled between Oxford and 
Cambridge in an endeavour to propitiate 



both factions. But they usually suffered the 
fate of wobblers by having to join one side 
or the other, while still incurring the scorn 
of both. 

The Boat Race dawned upon us each year 
as a strange and bewildering element in our 
social relationships. We would part one 
night on normal terms, and the morrow 
would find us wearing strange favours, and 
regarding our friends of yesterday with open 
and passionate dislike. For the sake of a 
morsel of coloured ribbon old friendships 
would be shattered and brother would meet 
brother with ingenious expressions of con- 
tempt. There was no moderate course in 
the matter. A boy was either vehemently 
Cambridge or intolerably Oxford, and it 
would have been easier to account for the 
colour of his hair than to explain how he 
arrived at his choice of a university. Some 
blind instinct, some subtle influence felt, per- 
haps, in the dim, far-off nursery days may 
have determined this weighty choice ; but the 
whole problem was touched with the mystery 
that inspired the great classical and modern 
snowball fights, when little boys would pound 


each other almost into a state of unconscious- 
ness for the sake of a theory of education. 
Our interest in the Boat Race as a boat 
race was small, and quite untroubled by any 
knowledge of the respective merits of the 
crews. But we wore their colours in our 
buttonholes, and the effect of these badges 
on our lives was anarchic. We saw blue. 

It was my fate to drift, fatally and im- 
mutably Cambridge, into a school that had 
a crushing Oxford majority. In these cir- 
cumstances, the light-blue ribbon became, for 
the small and devoted band that upheld the 
Cambridge tradition of valour, the cause of 
endless but never conclusive defeats, the 
symbol of a splendid martyrdom. Try 
as we might, we found ourselves always 
in a minority, and, to add to our bitterness, 
these years of luckless warfare coincided 
with a series of Cambridge defeats, and we 
knew ourselves the supporters of a forlorn 
and discredited cause. And yet, Fate having 
decreed that we should be Cambridge, we 
did not falter before our hopeless task of 
convincing the majority that it was made 
of baser stuff than we. We would arrive 


in the morning with our colours stitched to 
our coats, and when, overwhelmed by num- 
bers, we lost our dear favours we would 
retire to a place apart, repair the loss from 
a secret store of ribbon, and dash once more 
into the fray. The others might be Oxford 
when they had a mind to, but we were 
Cambridge Cambridge all the time. 

Our contests were always fierce, but only 
once so far as I remember did they become 
really venomous. Some ingenious Cam- 
bridge mind had hit on the idea of protect- 
ing his badge with a secret battery of pins, 
and there ensued a series of real and 
desperate fights that threatened our clan 
with physical extinction. The trouble passed 
as suddenly as it had arisen ; a mysterious 
rumour went round the clans that pins were 
bad form ; and there was a lull while Cam- 
bridge treated their black eyes and Oxford 
put sticking-plaster on their torn fingers. 
Pleasanter to remember is the famous retort 

of L , an utterance so finely dramatic that 

even to-day I cannot recall it without a 
thrill. Caught apart from his comrades, he 
was surrounded by the Oxford rabble, and 


robbed of his colours. " You aren't Cam- 
bridge now," said one of his assailants, mock- 
ingly. " Ah, but the sky is Cambridge ! " 
he replied, and indeed it was. We had our 
little victories to dull the edge of our defeats. 
And yet, probably, we of Cambridge were 
not altogether sorry when the Boat Race 
was over, and the business might be for- 
gotten for another eleven months, for we 
had but little rest while the war of the 
ribbons was in the air. If we sought to 
take a quiet walk round the quad, the chance 
was that a boy, too small perhaps to keep 
a favour even for a minute, but with a light- 
blue heart, would run up with tidings of 
some comrade hardly beset in the cloisters, 
and the battle must be begun again. These 
contests were sometimes the cause of tem- 
porary friendships, for in the course of the 
tumult one would find oneself indebted to 
a year-long enemy for the timely discomfiture 
of one's opponent, who in his turn might be, 
normally, one's bosom companion. For no 
tie was sacred enough to overcome this 
vernal madness of the Blues. If a fellow 
was base enough to be Oxford, his presence 


in the world was unnecessary, his society 
tabooed. And, as I have said, even brothers 
would bang each other's heads for the beauty 
of the Idea. 

Then came a day when age and respon- 
sibility changed our views on a good many 
things, and the Boat Race was not spared. 
Forgetful of the old triumphs and the old 
despairs, we preferred to treat ourselves and 
life in more sober terms, while smiling 
tolerantly at the little boys playing their 
rough games beneath our feet. Leaning for- 
ward with hands eager to clutch our 
manhood, we would not for worlds have 
compromised our new position by taking an 
interest in such childish trifles as coloured 
ribbons. So the game went on without us, 
and the measure of our loss is the measure of 
the loss of the earth when the spring melts 
into summer. 

To-day I hear persons discussing the Boat 
Race in railway-carriages, and in face of 
their dispassionate judgments I ask myself 
whether they can ever have sung for it and 
fought for it, and, let it be added, wept for 
it, as I have done. In truth, I suppose they 



have ; for boys do not differ widely in these 
essential things. But these people do not 
fight ; they do not even wear the ribbon ! 
While it is open to a man to ignore the Boat 
Race altogether, I cannot understand his 
approaching the contest in so miserable a 


I SUPPOSE that every one has made the 
acquaintance of the subject of this little 
biography at some time or other, though to 
others he may not have appeared as he has 
appeared to me, and, as I know, he has 
been called by many names. Indeed, when 
I consider that there have been men and 
women who have sought his society with a 
passionate eagerness, it is clear to me that 
his disguises must be extremely subtle, and 
that he employs them with a just regard for 
the personalities of his companions. For 
while some have found in his society the 
ultimate splendour of life, for me he has 
always been wearisome and ridiculously 

Of course it may be that I have known him 
too long, for even as a child I was accus- 
tomed to find him at my side, an unwelcome 
guest who came and went by no law that 


youthful mind could determine. Cer- 
tainly in those days he was more capricious, 
and the method of argument by repetition, 
which he still employs, was only too well 
calculated to weary and distress a child. But 
for the rest, the Harold whom I knew then 
was materially the Harold whom I know 
now. Conceive a small man so severely 
afflicted with St. Vitus's dance that his 
features are hardly definable, endow him 
with a fondness for clothes of dull colours 
grievously decorated with spots, and a habit 
of asking meaningless questions over and 
over again in an utterly unemotional voice, 
and you will be able to form a not unfair 
estimate of the joys of Harold's society. 
There have been exceptions, however, to the 
detestable colourlessness of Harold's appear- 
ance. I have seen him on occasion dressed 
in flaming red, like Mephistopheles, and his 
shrill staccato voice has pierced my head 
like a corkscrew. But these manifestations 
have always been brief, and might even be 
considered enjoyable when compared with 
the unrestful monotony of Harold's society 
in general. 


Who taught me to call him by the noble 
name of Harold I do not know, but in my 
youthful days the man's character was oddly 
associated with the idea of virtue as ex- 
pounded in the books I read on Sunday 
afternoons. That I hated him was, I felt, 
merely a fitting attribute in one whose 
instincts were admittedly bad, but I did not 
allow the consideration to affect my re- 
joicings when I escaped from his company. 
Curiously, too, I perceived that the Olym- 
pians were with me in this, and since the 
moral soundness of those improving books 
was beyond question, I had grave doubts 
as to their ultimate welfare. But it was 
always an easy task to detect the Olympians 
tripping in their own moralities ; they had 
so many. 

As time went on, and I grew out of the 
Sunday books and all that they stood for, I 
came to believe that I was growing out of 
Harold too. His appearances became rare, 
and, from his point of view, a little ineffec- 
tive. It pleased me to consider with a 
schoolboy's arrogance that he was little 
more than a child's nightmare, and that if 


a man turned to fight him Harold would 
vanish. For a while Harold, in his cunning, 
played up to this idea. He would seek my 
side timidly, and fly at a word. The long, 
sleepless nights of childhood and the weary 
days were forgotten, and I made of him a 
jest. Sometimes I wondered whether he 
really existed. 

And then he came. At first I was only 
mildly astonished when I found that nothing 
I could say would make him leave me, but 
as the hours passed the old hatred asserted 
itself, and to fight the little man with the 
dull voice and the cruel spots on his clothes 
seemed all that there was in life to do. The 
hours passed into days and nights, and 
sometimes I was passive in the hope that 
he might weary, sometimes I shouted 
answers to his questions the same answer 
to the same question over and over again. 
I felt, too, that if I could only see his 
features plainly for a moment he would 
disappear, and I would stare at him until 
the sky grew red as my eyes. But I could 
not see him clearly, and the world became 
a thing of dull colours, terrible with spots. 


By now I was fighting him with a sense of 
my own fatuity, for I felt that nothing would 
make this man fight fairly. His voice had 
fallen to a passionless whisper and the spots 
on his clothes swelled into obscene blotches 
and burst like over -ripe fruit. It was then 
that the chloroform clutched me by the 
throat. I have never known anything on 
earth more sweet. 

Since then, it seems to me, Harold has 
never been quite the same. He comes to 
see me now and again, and sometimes even 
he lingers by my side. But there is a note 
of doubt about him that I do not remem- 
ber to have noticed before some of his 
former spirit would seem to be lacking, and 
I am forced to wonder sometimes whether 
Harold is not ageing. And, though it may 
appear strange, the thought inspires me with 
a certain regret. I do not like the man, 
and I should be mad to seek him of my own 
accord, but in fairness I must acknowledge 
that in a negative way he has contributed 
to all the pleasures I have enjoyed. Sunsets 
and roses and the white light of the stars 
I owe my appreciation of them all to Harold ; 


and I know that it is by aid of his keen 
realism that I have founded the city of my 
dreams. It will be a grey world when 
Harold is no more. 


WHEN all the world was young and we were 
young with it there was no occupation more 
pleasing to our infant minds than the digging 
of great holes in that placid and maternal 
earth that endured the trampling of our 
childish feet with patience, and betrayed no 
realisation of the extraordinary miracle of 
life that had set us dancing in the fields 
and valleys of the world. As repentant 
children trace with curious finger on their 
mother's foreheads the lines that they them- 
selves have set there, so we followed the 
furrows on the forehead of our mother Earth 
with our little spades, smoothing here and 
deepening there, and not the less contented 
that our labours had but a vague and illusory 
aim. Sometimes, perhaps, we had a half- 
formed ambition to dig to those dim and 
incredible Antipodes where children walk 



head downwards, clinging to the earth with 
their feet, like the flies on the playroom 
ceiling. Sometimes, perhaps, we dug for 
treasure, immense masses of golden coin, 
like those memorable hoards described in 
"Treasure Island" and the "Gold Bug." Or, 
again, it might be that we planned vast caves 
and galleries wherein tawny pirates and 
swart smugglers might carouse, shocking the 
echoes with blood-curdling oaths, and drink- 
ing boiling rum like Quilp. We dug, in 

There seems to be some element in the 
human mind that is definitely attracted by 
the digging of holes, for it is not only 
children who are interested by the spectacle. 
The genial excavators whose duty it is to 
make havoc of the London streets never fail 
to draw an attentive and apparently appre- 
ciative audience, whether of loafers or philo- 
sophers the critic may not lightly determine. 
They gaze into the pit with countenances 
of abysmal profundity, that appear to see 
all, to understand all, and to express nothing 
in particular. It is possible that they are 
placidly enjoying the reflection that beneath 


the complex contrivances of our civilisation, 
beneath London itself, the virgin earth lies 
unturned and unaffected. Perhaps, as each 
spadeful of earth reaches the surface, they 
perceive, like a child watching the sawdust 
trickle from the broken head of a doll, that 
here is the raw material of which worlds 
are made. Perhaps they do not think at all, 
but merely derive a mild satisfaction from 
watching other people work. Yet it is at 
least agreeable to believe that they are 
watchers for the unexpected, that they have 
discovered the great truth that if you dig 
long enough you will probably dig some- 
thing up. 

We children knew this very well, and we 
never dug without feeling the thrill proper 
to treasure-seekers. Even half a brick 
becomes eventful when found in these 
circumstances, and the earth had a 
hundred pleasant secrets in the shape of 
fragments of pottery, mysterious lumps of 
metal and excited insects for those 
who approached her reverently, trowel 
in hand. It was this variety of treasure 
that made us prefer inland digging 


to those more fashionable excavations 
that are carried on at the seaside. Sand 
is a friendly substance in which to dig, and 
it is very convenient to have a supply of 
water like the sea close at hand when it 
is necessary to fill a pond or add a touch of 
realism to a moat. But the ease with 
which sand obeys the spade soon becomes 
monotonous, and the seaside in general 
suffers from an air of having been elabo- 
rately prepared for children to play there. 
Our delving operations in the garden had 
the charm of nominal illegality, and the 
brown earth had a hundred moods to thwart 
and help and enchant us continually. Some- 
times we dug with scientific precision ; some- 
times we set to work with fury, flinging the 
earth to all sides in our eagerness to rob her 
of her secrets. A 'philosopher might have 
found in us a striking instance of the revolt 
of civilised man against Nature ; a woman 
would have noticed that we were getting our 
pinafores dirty. 

And though we liked digging for its own 
sake, we were not unmindful of the possi- 
bilities of a good big hole. From its cool 


depths we could obtain a new aspect of the 
sky ; and, cunningly roofed over with 
branches and earth, it made a snug retreat 
for a harassed brigand and a surprising 
pitfall for the unwary gardener. In smaller 
cavities we concealed treasure of stones 
decked with the colours left behind by the 
painters at the last spring-cleaning, and if 
we could not wholly convince ourselves of 
their intrinsic value, they at least bore 
adequate resemblance to the treasures of 
Aladdin's cave, as revealed to us in panto- 
mime. We kept the knowledge of the spots 
where these treasures were buried a close 
secret, even from each other, and it was 
etiquette for the finder of one of these 
repositories to remove its contents and con- 
ceal them elsewhere. The conflict between 
seeker and finder never languished, and men 
who rose up millionaires would go to bed 

Like all sincere artists, we did not allow 
our own efforts to hinder a just appreciation 
of those of others, and we had the utmost 
admiration for rabbits, down whose 
enchanted burrows we would peer long- 


ingly, reflecting wisely how fine a home it 
must be that had so romantic and fasci- 
nating an entrance. For us half the charm 
of " Alice " lay in the natural and sensible 
means by which she reached her wonder- 
land, though we could never bring ourselves 
to forgive the author for pretending that his 
clearly veracious narrative was only a 
dream. This, we recognised, was an 
obvious grown-up device for preventing 
the youthful from slipping away from 
governesses to wonderlands of their own, 
and true enough we found rabbit -holes oddly 
reluctant to admit our small bodies, even 
though we widened their mouths with our 
trowels. Looking-glasses, it may be men- 
tioned, proved no less refractory, and at this 
day, it is said, children find it impossible 
to emulate the flying feats of " Peter Pan," 
though they carefully follow the directions. 
It is clear that these grown-up authors are 
not wholly straightforward with their youth- 
ful readers, but guard the Olympian interests 
by concealing some essential part of the 
ritual in these matters. Sooner or later the 
children find them out, and expel them from 


all nurseries, playrooms, gardens, and places 
where youth and wisdom congregate. 

But if we could not tread those long 
corridors into which the rabbits scuttled so 
featly on our approach, there was nothing to 
hinder us from digging a tunnel to fairy- 
land of our own. The grand project formed, 
all the forces of the garden would unite, and 
we would dig seriously for an hour or so. 
At the end of that time somebody's foot would 
be hurt by a spade, or some bright spirit 
would suggest that we should fill the hole 
with water and call it a lake. Or, perhaps, 
it would be teatime at all events, we never 
got to fairyland at all. Or did we? As we 
grow old our memories fade, but dimly I 
seem to remember a garden that was like 
no garden I have found in grown-up places. 
It is possible that we did reach fairyland, 
treading the same road that Alice and 
Cinderella and Aladdin had trod before 
us. Perhaps a grown-up writer may be 
pardoned for forgetting. 


I AM willing to leave to other and more 
skilful hands the pleasure of narrating the 
joys and trials of county cricket, club cricket, 
and the splendid cricket of country houses 
and village greens. Not that my task is the 
more modest, for, having a just regard for 
relative values, I think that it is of cricket 
I write, such cricket as small boys play in 
dreams (ah, me, those sixes that small boys 
hit in dreams !) ; such cricket as the ghosts 
enjoy at nights at Lord's. It is well for the 
eye to take pleasure in shining flannels and 
ivory-white boots ; there is a thrill in the 
science of the game, the swerve of the new 
red ball, the quick play of the batsmen's 
feet ; but I think that when good cricketers 
die it is not to such elaborate sport as this 
that they betake themselves in the happy 
playing-fields. To mow the astonished 



daisies in quick retort to the hardly 
gentlemanly sneak ; to pull like Mr. Jessop 
because one knows no better ; to be bowled 
by every straight yorker ; to slog at full 
pitches with close-shut eyes ; thus and thus 
only is the cricket of Arcadia. 

In its simplest form we played it in the 
garden after dinner, but even here environ- 
ment and our imaginations combined to make 
it complicated. The lawn was small, and 
there were flower-beds and windows to be 
considered. The former did not trouble us 
very much ; indeed, we lopped the French 
lilies with a certain glee, but a broken 
window was a more serious business, and 
lofty drives to the off were therefore dis- 
couraged. Yet once, I recollect, the ball was 
sent through the same window three times in 
an afternoon. Of course, the unfortunate 
batsman who allowed his enthusiasm thus to 
outdrive his discretion was out, as also was 
he who hit the ball into the next garden. 
But this latter rule was rather conventional 
than imposed by necessity, for we were 
fortunate in the possession of a charming 

neighbour ; and sometimes youth, adven- 



turing in search of cricket-balls, would be 
regaled with seed-cake and still lemonade, 
and return rampant to his comrades. But 
the great zest of our games lay in our im- 
personation of real famous cricketers. We 
would take two county sides, and divide the 
roles of their members amongst us, so that 
each of us would represent two or three 
members of each team. The score-sheets 
of these matches would convey a strange 
impression to the erudition of the New 
Zealander. For the greatest cricketers failed 
to score frequently, and, indeed, inevitably 
if they happend to be left-handed bats. So 
far our passion for accuracy carried us, but, 
like Tom Sawyer, we had to " lay on " that 
we bowled left-handed when it was in the 
part, while realistic impersonations of 
lightning bowlers were too dangerous to 
the batsman to be permitted. 

These great contests did not pass without 
minor disagreements. The rights of age were 
by no means waived, and in those days I 
was firmly convinced that the l.b.w. rule had 
been invented by the M.C.C. to assist elder 
brothers in getting their rights. Moreover, 


there was always high argument over the 
allocation of the parts of the more popular 
cricketers. My sister, I remember, would 
retire wrath fully from the game if she were 
not allowed to be K. J. Key, and so, when 
Surrey was playing, we had to permit her 
to be titular captain. Girls are very keen 
at cricket, but they are not good at it. Or 
perhaps in the course of the game " W. G. " 
would find it necessary to chase Lockwood 
all over the field for bowling impudently well. 
Yet while we mimicked our elders we secretly 
thought Olympian cricket a poor, unimagina- 
tive game without any quarrels. It was 
thrilling to bat for the honour of Mr. Fry, 
or to make a fine catch in the long field for 
Mr. Mason's sake, but our personal idiosyn- 
crasies also had their value. 

When we went away for our holidays it 
was ours to adventure with bat and ball on 
unaccustomed grounds : meadow cricket was 
tiresome, for the ball would hide itself in 
the long grass ; and seaside cricket, though 
exhilarating, was too public a business to 
be taken really seriously. But cricket in 
the pinewoods was delightful almost, I 


think, the best cricket of all. The soft 
needles made an admirable pitch, and we 
had all the trees for fielders. If you hit 
the ball against a tree full-pitch, you were 
out, and it was strange how those patient, 
silent fieldsmen, who never dropped catches, 
seemed to arrange themselves, as the game 
progressed, in the conventional places in the 
field. Point would be there, and mid-off, and 
some safe men in the slips. Overhead the 
birds would call in the trees, and there were 
queer echoes when you hit the ball hard, as 
though Pan were watching from some dim 
pavilion and crying his applause. Really 
I wonder how we dared, or perhaps it were 
fitter to wonder why we dare no longer. 

The oddest cricket I ever played was with 
a gardener, a reticent, impassive man, who 
came and played with me when sudden 
mumps had exiled me from my holiday- 
making comrades. He would bowl to me 
silently for hours, only parting his lips now 
and again to murmur the name of the stump 
which he proposed to hit with his next ball, 
and no efforts of mine could prevent his grim 
prophecies from being fulfilled. When I gave 


him his innings he would pat my widest 
and most wily balls back to me politely 
until he thought I was tired, and then he 
would let me bowl him. This unequal con- 
test was not cricket as I knew it, but it 
fascinated me nevertheless. At night in my 
bed I would hit his bowling all over the 
world and upset his stumps with monotonous 
ease. By day I could only serve his humour. 
The devil was in the man. 

The bats with which we played were 
normal save in size, but the balls varied. 
In times of prosperity we had real leather 
cricket-balls, but the balls known as 
" compos " were more common. When new 
they had a noble appearance, but use made 
them rough and like dry earth in the hand, 
and then they were apt to sting the fingers 
of the unwary cricketer. The most perilous 
kind of ball of all was the size of a cricket- 
ball, but made of solid rubber, and deadly 
alike to batsman and fieldsman. For some 
reason or other the proper place in which 
to carry a cricket-ball was the trousers, or 
rather knickerbockers, pocket. The curious 
discomfort of this practice lingers in the 


mind. Soft balls are of no use in real 
cricket ; but if you bore a hole in them 
and fill them with water they make very 
good bombs for practical anarchists. 

Later came school cricket, but it is 
significant that the impression that lingers 
is of the long drives home in the dusk 
from out-matches rather than of the 
cricket itself. We would walk up the 
hills to rest the horses, playing " touch " 
and imprisoning unfortunate glow-worms 
in wooden matchboxes. And later still 
came visits to Lord's and the Oval, when 
it was my fortune to see some of our old 
heroes in the flesh. Certainly they made 
more runs than they had been wont to do 

in the past, but It is not wise to examine 

our heroes too closely, though I am not alone 
in thinking that first-class cricketers are 
lacking a little in the old spirit. Indeed, 
how can they hope to keep it, they who 
are grown so wise? 


THERE were two kinds of gardening to 
employ our sunny hours the one concerned 
with the vast tracts of the Olympians, the 
other with the cultivation of those intimate 
patches of earth known as " the children's 
gardens," wherein was waged an endless 
contest between Nature and our views of 
what a garden should be. Of the joys of 
this nobler order of tillage I have written 
elsewhere, and I may not penetrate now 
into that mysterious world beyond the shrub- 
bery, where plants assumed the proportions 
of mammoth trees, and beds of mustard-and- 
cress took the imaginative eye of youth as 
boundless prairies. But if the conventional 
aims of grown-up gardening set limits to 
our fancy, if their ideal of beauty in the 
garden unfriendly as it was to cricket and 
the fiercer outbreaks of Indians was none 


of ours, we found, nevertheless, certain 
details in the process by which they sought 
to attain their illusory ends stimulating and 
wholly delightful. Flowers might inspire in 
us no more than a rare and short-lived curi- 
osity, but the watering-pot (and even better 
the garden -hose) were our very good friends. 
Tidiness was no merit in the garden of our 
dreams, but our song of joy rose straight 
to heaven with the smoke of bonfires. 
Meadows were more to our taste than the 
prim culture of lawns, but in our hands the 
lawn-mower became a flaming chariot, and 
we who drove it as unscorched Phaetons 
praised for the zest with which we pursued 
our pleasure by all Olympus. 

It was one of the charms of childhood 
that such praise would sometimes fall from 
the lips of our rulers as suddenly and as 
mysteriously as their censure. It was 
pleasant, after a gorgeous afternoon spent 
in extinguishing imaginary conflagrations 
with the garden house to be congratulated on 
the industry with which we had watered the 
flowers. It was pleasant to be rewarded 
with chocolates from France for burning 


witches on the rubbish -heap behind the 
greenhouse. As a matter of fact, we never 
" helped " the gardener unless it suited us, 
and we would have hidden in the shrubbery 
a whole day rather than be entrapped into 
half an hour's weeding an occupation which 
we regarded in the light of a severe punish- 
ment. And the odd confusion in the 
grown-up mind between right and wrong 
never ceased to intrigue us. When my elder 
brother, in a sentimental hour, flung a 
wreath of roses on to the stately head of 
the aunt of the moment, we knew that it 
was a pretty thought, very happily trans- 
lated into action ; but the Olympians treated 
it as a crime. Yet it was not his fault that 
the thorns tore her hair ; had there been 
any thornless roses he would probably have 
used them. And, being honest, we wondered 
no less when we were praised for playing 
with the garden-hose, that coiled about our 
legs like wet snakes, and made our stockings 
wet on the warmest summer day ; for in 
our hearts we knew that into any occupation 
so pleasant must surely enter the elements 
of crime. But the rulers of our destiny 


would bid us change our wet clothes with a 
calm brow, and would congratulate each 
other on our interest in the garden. We 
lived in a strange world. 

The judgments of the gardener we could 
better understand, though, alas ! we had to 
sum him up as unreliable. He was a twisted 
little man who had been to sea in his youth, 
and we knew that he had been a pirate 
because he had a red face, an enormous 
clasp-knife, and knew how to make every 
imaginable kind of knot. Moreover, there 
was a small barrel in the tool -house that 
had manifestly held gunpowder once upon 
a time. Such evidence as this was not to 
be refuted, but we had to conclude that he 
had been driven from the High Seas in dis- 
grace, for he was pitifully lacking in the 
right pirate spirit. No pirate, we felt, 
would have taken the tale of our petty mis- 
deeds to the Olympian courts for settlement, 
yet this is what Esau did under cover of a 
duplicity that aggravated the offence. In one 
and the same hour he would expound to us 
the intricacies of the Chinese knot with 
many friendly and sensible observations, 


and tell the shocked Olympians that we had 
thrown his rose-sticks all over the garden 
in the manner of javelins. Captain Shark, 
of the barque Rapacious, would not have 
acted like this, if it was conceivable that 
that sinister hero could have turned 
gardener. Perhaps he would have smitten 
us sorely with the Dutch hoe, or scalped us 
with his pruning-knife by means of a neat 
twist learnt in Western America, but what- 
ever form his revenge might have assumed 
he would have scorned to betray us to the 
people who had forgotten how to play. 
Esau was a sad knave. 

And, unlike the Olympians, he had no 
illusions as to the value of our labours in 
the garden, treating our generous assistance 
with the scantiest gratitude, and crediting 
our enthusiasm with the greater part of 
Nature's shortcomings. Whenever our horti- 
cultural efforts became at all spirited he 
would start up suddenly from behind a hedge 
and admonish us as the boy in " Prunella " 
admonishes the birds. He would not allow 
us to irrigate the flower-beds by means of 
a system of canals ; he checked, or at least 

attempted to check, our consumption of 
fruit, deliciously unripe (has any one noticed 
that an unripe greengage eaten fresh from 
the tree is a gladder thing than any ripe 
fruit ?) ; he would not let us play at execu- 
tions with the scythe, or at avalanches with 
the garden-roller. The man's soul was a 
cabbage, and I fear that he regarded us as 
a tiresome kind of vermin that he might 
not destroy. 

Nevertheless, as the Olympians liked to 
see us employed in the garden, he could 
not wholly refuse our proffered aid, and he 
would watch our adventures with the garden - 
hose and the lawn-mower, with his piratical 
features incarnadined, as it were, by the 
light of his lurid past. Naturally, water 
being a good friend of children, to water 
the garden was the most popular task of all, 
and as I was the youngest brother it was 
but rarely that I was privileged to experi- 
ence that rare delight. To feel the cool rush 
of the water through fingers hot with play 
and the comfortable trickle down one's 
sleeve, to smite a plant with muddy destruc- 
tion and to hear the cheerful sound made 


by the torrent in falling on to the soaked 
lawn these and their fellow^emotions may 
not be those of adult gardeners, but they 
are not to be despised. But as I have said, 
they were not for me, and usually I had to 
be content with mowing the lawn, an occu- 
pation from which I drew a full measure 
of placid enjoyment. 

Age dims our realisation of the emotional 
significance of our own actions, and it is 
only by an effort of memory that I can 
arrive at the philosophy of the contented 
mower of lawns. I suppose that profes- 
sional gardeners find the labour monotonous, 
lacking both the artistic interest of such 
work as pruning and the scientific subtleties 
of cucumber -growing ; but youth has the 
precious faculty of finding the extraordinary 
in the commonplace, and I had only to drag 
the lawn-mower from its rugged bed among 
the forks and spades in the tool -house, to 
embark on a sea of intricate and diverse 

The very appearance of the thing was 
cheery and companionable, with its hands 
outstretched to welcome mine, and its coat 


of green more vivid than any lawn. To 
seize hold of its smooth handles was like 
shaking hands with an old friend, and as 
it rattled over the gravel path it chattered 
to me in the gruff tones of a genial uncle. 
Once on the smooth lawn its voice thrilled 
to song, tremulous and appealing, and filled 
with the throbbing of great wings. Even 
now I know no sound that cries of the 
summer so poignantly as the intermittent 
song of the lawn-mower heard far off 
through sunny gardens. And cheered by that 
song I might drive my chariot, or it might 
be my plough, where I would. Not for me 
the stiff brocaded pattern beloved of Esau ; 
I made curves, skirting the shadows of the 
tall poplars or cutting the lawn into islands 
and lagoons. Over the grass -box or the 
nose -bag, as we called it the grass danced 
like a mist of green flies, and I beheaded 
the daisies with the zest of a Caligula, paus- 
ing sometimes to marvel at those modest 
blossoms that survived my passage. I 
marvelled, too, with the cold inhumanity of 
youth, at the injudicious earthworms that 
tried to stay my progress, and perished for 


their pains. Sometimes a stray pebble 
would grate unpleasantly on the blades and 
waken my lulled senses with a jerk ; some- 
times I would drive too close to a flower- 
bed, and munched fragments of pansies and 
wallflowers would glow amongst the grass 
in the grass -box. 

No doubt a part of my enjoyment lay in 
the feeding of that natural spirit of destruc- 
tiveness that present-day Olympians satisfy 
with frequent gifts of clockwork toys, 
ingenious mechanisms very proper to be in- 
quired into by young fingers. But there was 
more in it than that. I liked the smell of 
the newly cut grass, and I would run my 
fingers through it and press damp, warm 
handfuls of it to my face to win the full 
savour of it. I even liked the more pungent 
odour of the grass-heap where last week's 
grass lay drying in the sun. And the effort 
necessary to drive the worker of wonders 
across the lawn gave me a pleasant sense 
of my own sturdiness. 

But the fact remains that, with all these 
reasons, I cannot wholly fathom the true 
philosophy of lawn -mowing with my adult 


mind. I have set down all the joys that I 
remember, but some significant fact, some 
essential note of enchantment, is missing. 
What did I think about as I pressed to and 
fro with my lawn-mower? Sometimes, per- 
haps, I was a ploughman, guiding vast horses 
along the crests of mountains, and paus- 
ing now and again to examine the treasures 
that my labour had revealed in the earth, 
leather bags of guineas and jewelled crowns 
that sparkled through their mask of clay. 
Sometimes I might be a charioteer driving 
a team of mad horses round the circus for 
Nero's pleasure, or a fireman driving a fire- 
engine scatheless through bewildered streets. 
But with all I believe that sometimes I was 
no more than a little boy, mowing the lawn 
of a sunny garden, loving the task for its 
own sake, and inspired by no subtler spirit 
than that which led Esau to cultivate cab- 
bages with dogged enthusiasm. It would not 
do to condemn that dishonoured pirate 
because he saw heaven as a kitchen -garden 
and regarded flowers as the fond toys of 
the Olympian dotage. He, too, had his illu- 
sions ; he, too, while he sowed the seed had 


visions of an impossible harvest. His ulti- 
mate fate eludes my memory, but doubtless 
he has finished with his husbandry by now. 
I, too, no longer mow the lawn save when 
arrayed in fantastic knickerbockers and 
dream-shod as of yore I trim the grass-plats 
of sleep with a lawn-mower that sings as 
birds no longer sing. What the purpose 
of my youthful labours may have been 
I do not know. . . . Parturiunt monies, 
nascetur ridiculus mus. Perhaps I was 
already enrolled in the employment agency 
of destiny as a writer of idle articles. 



THE sea, like all very large things, can only 
be intimately understood by children. If 
we can conceive a sensible grown-up person 
looking at the sea for the first time, we 
feel that he should either yawn or wish to 
drown himself. But a child would take a 
sample of it in a bucket, and consider that 
in all its aspects ; and then it would know 
that the sea is a great many bucketfuls of 
water, and further that by an odd freak of 
destiny this water is not fit to drink. Storms 
and ships and sand-castles and lighthouses 
and all the other side-shows would follow 
later ; but in the meantime the child would 
have seen the sea in a bucket, as it had 
previously seen the moon in a looking-glass, 
so would know all about it. The moon is 
a variable and interesting kind of lamp ; the 
sea is buckets and buckets and buckets full 



of water. I think the stars are holes in a 
sort of black curtain or ceiling, and the 
sun is a piece of brightness, except at sunset 
or in a .mist, when it is a whole Dutch cheese. 
The world is streets and fields and the seaside 
and our house. 

I doubt whether a child has any sense of 
what I may call the appeal of breadth. If 
it is confronted with a fine view, it will con- 
centrate its interest on a windmill or a doll's 
house, and the seaside is no more than a 
place where one wears no shoes or stockings, 
and the manufacture of mud pies becomes 
suddenly licit. The child does not share 
the torments of the adult Londoner, who feels 
that there is no room in the world to stretch 
his arms and legs, and therefore wins a 
pathetic sense of freedom in seeing the long 
yellow sands and the green wastes of the 
sea. Nor is it at all excited by the con- 
sideration that there is a lot more sea beyond 
the horizon ; the extent of its interest in the 
water is the limit to which it may paddle. 

Yet in some dim, strange way the child 
realises aesthetic values more here than else- 
where. I am quite sure it can see no real 


beauty in its normal surroundings. Sunsets 
and small houses lit for evening, the shining 
streets after rain, and even flowers and 
pictures and dolls, are never beautiful to 
a child in the sense that a story or an idea 
may be beautiful. But tacitly, for a child 
has no language to express such things, 
something of the blueness of the sea seems 
to seek expression in its eyes, something 
of the sparkle of the sand seems to be 
tangled in its hair, something of the sunshine 
burns in its rounded calves that glow like 
brown eggs. A child is always a thing of 
wonder. But on the edge of the sea this 
wonder deepens until the artificial observer 
is abashed. A seaside child is no creature 
to be petted and laughed over ; it were as 
easy to pet the tireless waters, and to laugh 
over the grave of a little cat ; children 
whom one has known very well indeed in 
town will find new playing fields by the 
sea into which it is impossible to follow 
them. Dorothy weighs five stone four 
pounds at Maida Vale ; at Littlehampton the 
sea wind blows her along like a feather ; 
she is become a wispy, spiritual thing, a 


faint, fair creature a-dance on light feet that 
would make the fairy-girl of a poet's dream 
seem clumsy by comparison. She is nearer 
to us when she paddles. The warm sand 
creeping up through her toes, the silver 
thread of coolness about her legs, these 
things are within our comprehension though 
they fall no more within our experience. 
But when she flings herself along the beach 
with the wild hair and loose limbs and the 
song of an innocent Bacchante, when she 
bids the gold sands heave up and support her 
body, tired with play, when she stoops to 
gather diamonds and pearls from the shore 
made wet and smooth by the retreating 
waves, she is as far from us and our human 
qualities as a new-awakened butterfly. 
There have been sea-washed moments when 
I should not have been astonished if she 
had flung out a pair of mother-of-pearl wings 
and stood in the blue sky, like a child saint 
in a stained-glass window. There have been 
other moments when she has approached me 
with a number of impossible questions in 
wanton parody of her simple London self. 
Between these two extremes her moods vary 


from second to second, and she plays upon 
them as Pan upon his pipes, and to much 
the same tune. She loves the long tresses of 
seaweed and the pink shells like the nails 
of her own little hands ; and her coloured 
pail, when she is not the architect of sea-girt 
palaces, is a treasury of salty wonders. To 
climb the rough rocks and call them moun- 
tains, to drive back the waves with a chiding 
foot, and to alter the face of Nature with a 
wooden spade, these were not tasks for the 
domesticated creature who shares the hearth- 
rug with the cat at home. But the spirit 
of the sea has changed Dorothy ; she is 
now a little more and a little less than child ; 
and she recognises no comrades but those 
other nymphs of the sea, who hold the beach 
with the sparkle of wet feet and careless 
petticoats, who run hither and thither in 
search of the big adventure, while their 
parents and guardians sleep in the sun. It 
is hard that age should deprive us of so 
many privileges, and least of all can we 
spare the glamour of the sands of the sea. 
Yet to the adult mind Brighton beach, 
sprinkled with newspapers and washed by 


a sea whose surface is black with smuts, 
brings little but disgust. We insist on having 
our fairy-lands clean and end, too often, by 
finding no fairy-land at all. The sea, after 
all, is no more than water that may be caught 
in a bucket ; the sand may glitter on a child's 
spade, and we who believe that the essential 
knowledge of the thing is ours are no wiser 
than the children. For me the sea is a 
restless and immeasurable waste of greens 
and blues and greys, and I know that its 
strength lies in its monotony. It is not the 
noisy turbulence of storms that moves me 
to fear, but the dull precision of the tides 
and the tireless succession of waves. And 
my impression is no truer than the children's 
and lends itself less readily to a sympathetic 
manner of living. I feel that if I could 
once more hold the ocean in my bucket, if 
the whole earth might be uprooted by my 
spade, I should be nearer to a sense of the 
value of life than I am now. I see the 
children go trooping by with their calm eyes, 
not, as is sometimes said, curious, but rather 
tolerant of life, and I know that for them 
the universe is merely an aggregate of details, 


some agreeable and some stupid, while I 
must needs depress myself by regarding it 
as a whole. And this is the proved dis- 
tinction between juvenile and adult philoso- 
phies, if we may be permitted to regard a 
child's very definite point of view as the 
effect of a philosophy. Life is a collection 
of little bits of experience ; the seaside bits 
are pleasant, and there is nothing more to 
be said. 


WHEN the winter fires were burning their 
merriest in the grates, or when the summer 
sun was melting to crimson shadows down 
in the western fields, we, pressing our noses 
on the window-panes in placable discussion 
of the day's cricket, or dreaming our quiet 
dreams on the playroom floor, would hear 
a heart-breaking pronouncement fall tone- 
lessly from the lips of the Olympians : 
" Come, children, it is time you were in 
bed ! " It needed no more than that to 
bring our hearts to zero with a run, and 
set our lips quivering in eloquent but 
supremely useless protest. Against this 
decree there was, we knew, no appeal ; and 
we pleaded our hopeless cause rather from 
habit than from any expectation of success. 
And even while we uttered passionate ex- 
pressions of our individual wakefuiness, and 



vowed our impatience for the coming of that 
golden age when we should be allowed to 
sit up all night, we were collecting the 
honoured toys that shared our beds, in 
mournful recognition of the inevitable. 

It was not that we had any great objection 
to bed in itself, but that fate always decreed 
that bed-time should fall in the brightest 
hour of the day. No matter what inter- 
necine conflicts, whether with the Olympians 
or each other, had rendered the day miser- 
able, when bed -time drew near the air was 
sweet with the spirit of universal brother- 
hood, as though in face of our common 
danger we wished to propitiate the gods by 
means of our unwonted merit. Feuds were 
patched up, confiscated property was restored 
to its rightful owner, and brother hailed 
brother with a smiling countenance and that 
genial kind of rudeness that passed with us 
for politeness. This was the time of day, too, 
when the more interesting kind of Olympian 
would make his appearance, uncles at least, 
we called them uncles who could perform 
conjuring tricks and tell exciting stories, and 
aunts who kissed us, but had a compensating 


virtue in that they had been known to pro- 
duce unexpected sweets. The house that 
might have been a gloomy prison of dull- 
ness during the long day became, by a 
sudden magic, entertaining and happily 
alive. The kitchen was fragrant with the 
interesting odours that come from the cook- 
ing of strange adult viands ; the passages 
were full of strong men who could lift small 
boys to the ceiling without an effort, and 
who would sometimes fling sixpences about 
with prodigal lavishness ; the whole place 
was gay with parcels to be opened, and lively, 
if incomprehensible, conversation. And ever 
while we were thrilling to find that our 
normal environment could prove so amusing, 
the Olympians would realise our existence 
in their remote eyries of thought, and would 
send us, stricken with barren germs of revolt, 
to our uneventful beds. 

On me, as the youngest of the brothers, 
the nightly shock should have fallen lightly ; 
for I was but newly emancipated from the 
shameful ordeal of going to bed for an hour 
in the afternoon, and I could very well 
remember, though I pretended I had for- 


gotten, the sensations of that drowsy hour, 
when the birds sang so loudly outside the 
window and the sun thrust fingers of dusty 
gold through the crannies of the blind. I 
should therefore probably have been recon- 
ciled to the common lot, which spelt advance- 
ment to me, had I not newly discovered 
the joy of dreaming those dreams that men 
have written in books for the delight of the 
young. The Olympians were funny about 
books. They gave them to us, or at the 
least smiled graciously when other people 
gave them to us, but the moment rarely 
arrived when they could endure to see us 
reading, or spoiling our eyes as their dread- 
ful phrase ran. And especially at nightfall, 
when the shadows crept in from the corners 
of the room and made the pages of the 
dullest book exciting, it was inviting an early 
bed-time to be detected in the act of reading. 
As sure as the frog was about to turn into a 
prince or the black enchantress had appeared 
with her embarrassing christening present, 
the book would be taken from my hands and 
I would be threatened with the compulsory 
wearing of old-maidish spectacles an end 


that would make me an object of derision 
in the eyes of man. And even if I shut the 
book of my own accord, and sat nodding 
before the fire, working out the story in my 
own fashion with some one I knew very well 
to play the part of hero, some ruthless adult 
would accuse me of being " half asleep 
already," and the veil of illusion would be 
torn beyond repair. 

In winter -time the bedroom would seem 
cold after the comfortable kingdom of the 
hearth-rug, and the smell of scented soap 
was a poor substitute for the friendly 
fragrance of burning logs. So we would 
undress as quickly as possible, and lie 
cuddled up in the chilly bed-clothes, holding 
our own cold feet in our hands as if they 
belonged to somebody else. But if it hap- 
pened that one of us had a bad cold, and 
there was a fire in the bedroom, we would 
keep high festival, sitting in solemn palaver 
round the camp-fire, and toasting our pink 
toes like Arctic explorers, while the invalid 
lay in bed crowing over his black-currant 
tea or hot lemonade. It was pleasant, too, 
when natural weariness had driven us to 


our beds, to lie there and watch the firelight 
laughing on the walls ; and the invalid, for 
the time being, was rather a popular person. 

In summer-time getting into bed was a 
far more complex process, for the youth of 
the night held us wakeful ; and if the weather 
were warm, bed was an undesirable place as 
soon as we had exhausted such coolness as 
lingered in the sheets. Then we would 
devote ourselves to pillow-fighting, which 
was, I think, a more humorous sport for 
elder brothers than for younger, or we 
would express our firm intention of sleep- 
ing all night on the floor under tents 
made of the bedclothes. The best of this 
resolution was that it made bed seem 
so comfortable, when we climbed back after 
the first fine romance of camping-out had 
worn off. Thunderstorms we loved with a 
love not untouched by awe, and we would 
huddle together at the window, measuring the 
lightning, appraising the thunder, and listen- 
ing to the cool thresh of the rain on the 
garden below. 

There were rare nights nights of great 
winds when we would suddenly realise that 


fear had entered into the room, and that, 
after all, we were children in a world of 
men. Our efforts to talk resulted in tremu- 
lous whispers that bred fear rather than 
allayed it, and though we would not even 
then admit it, we knew that we were pos- 
sessed with a great loneliness. Sooner or 
later some cunning spirit would suggest a 
pilgrimage to the realms of the Olympians, 
and treading the warm stair-carpet with our 
bare feet, we would journey till we heard 
the comforting sound of their laughter and 
the even murmur of their conversation. 
Sometimes we would stay there till we grew 
sleepy, and the fear passed away, so that we 
could tiptoe back to bed, wondering a little 
at ourselves ; sometimes the Olympians 
would discover us, and comfort our timid 
hearts with rough words and sweet biscuits. 
In the morning we would pretend that the 
whole business had been only an adventure, 
and we were not above bragging of our 
courage in daring the ire of the grown-up 
people. But we knew better. 


IT is very true, as Mr. Chesterton must have 
remarked somewhere, that the cult of 
simplicity is one of the most complex 
inventions of civilisation. To eat nuts in 
a meadow when you can eat a beefsteak in 
a restaurant is neither simple nor primitive ; 
it is merely perverse, in the same way that 
the art of Gaugin is perverse. A shepherd- 
boy piping to his flock in Arcady and a 
poet playing the penny whistle in a Soho 
garret may make the same kind of noise ; 
but whereas the shepherd-boy knows no 
better, the poet has to pretend that he knows 
no better. So I reject scornfully the support 
of those amateurs who profess to like street- 
organs because they are the direct de- 
scendants of the itinerant ballad-singers of 
the romantic past ; or because they repre- 
sent the simple musical tastes of the majority 



to-day. I refuse to believe that in appre- 
ciating the sound of the complex modern 
instruments dragged across London by 
Cockneys disguised as Italians the soul of 
the primitive man who lurks in some dim 
oubliette of everybody's consciousness is in 
any way comforted. I should imagine that 
that poor prisoner, if civilisation's cruelty 
has not deprived him of the faculty of 
hearing, is best pleased by such barbaric 
music as the howling of the wind or the 
sound of railway-engines suffering in the 
night ; and indeed every one must have 
noticed that sometimes certain sounds un- 
musical in themselves can arouse the same 
emotions as the greatest music. 

But it is not on this score that street-organs 
escape our condemnation ; their music has 
certain defects that even distance cannot 
diminish, and they invariably give us the 
impression of a man speaking through his 
nose in a high-pitched voice, without ever 
pausing to take breath. If, in spite of this, 
we have a kindness for them, it is because 
of their association with the gladdest 
moments of childhood. To the adult ear 



they bring only desolation and distraction, 
but to the children the organ -man, with his 
curly black hair and his glittering earrings, 
seems to be trailing clouds of glory. For 
them the barrel-organ combines the merits 
of Wagner, Beethoven, Strauss, and Debussy, 
and Orpheus would have to imitate its 
eloquent strains on his lute if he wished to 
captivate the hearts of London children. 

When I was a child the piano -organ and 
that terrible variant that reproduces the 
characteristic stutter of the mandoline with 
deadly fidelity were hardly dreamed of, but 
the ordinary barrel-organ and the pre- 
historic hurdy-gurdy, whose quavering notes 
suggested senile decay, satisfied our natural 
craving for melody. It is true that they did 
not make so much noise as the modern 
instruments, but in revenge they were almost 
invariably accompanied by a monkey in a 
little red coat or a performing bear. I 
always had a secret desire to turn the handle 
of the organ myself ; and when too late 
in life to enjoy the full savour of the feat 
I persuaded a wandering musician to let me 
make the experiment, I was surprised to find 


that it is not so easy as it looks to turn 
the handle without jerking it, and that the 
arm of the amateur is weary long before the 
repertoire of the organ is exhausted. It is 
told of Mascagni that he once taught an 
organ-man how to play his notorious Inter- 
mezzo to the fullest effect ; but I fancy 
that in professional circles the story would 
be discredited, for the arm of the practised 
musician acquires by force of habit a 
uniform rate of revolution, and in endeavour- 
ing to modify that rate he would lose all 
control over his instrument. 

Personally, I do not like hearing excerpts 
from Italian opera on the street-organs, 
because that is not the kind of music that 
children can dance to, and it is, after all, 
in supplying an orchestra for the ballroom 
of the street that they best justify their 
existence. The spectacle of little ragged 
children dancing to the music of the organ 
is the prettiest and merriest and saddest thing 
in the world. In France and Belgium they 
waltz ; in England they have invented a 
curious compound of the reel, the gavotte, 
and the Cakewalk. The best dancers in 


London are always little Jewesses, and it 
is worth anybody's while to go to White- 
chapel at midday to see Miriam dancing on 
the cobbles of Stoney Lane. There is not, 
as I once thought, a thwarted enchanter shut 
up inside street-organs who cries out when 
the handle turns in the small of his back. 
But why is it that I feel instinctively that 
magicians have drooping moustaches and 
insinuating smiles, if it is not that my 
mind as a child founded its conception of 
magicians on itinerant musicians? And 
they weave powerful spells, strong enough 
to make these poor little atomies forget their 
birthright of want and foot it like princesses. 
Children approach their amusements with a 
gravity beside which the work of a man's 
life seems deplorably flippant. A baby 
toddling round a bandstand is a far more 
impressive sight than a grown man circum- 
navigating the world, and children do not 
smile when they dance all the laughter 
is in their feet. 

When from time to time " brain -workers " 
write to the newspapers to suggest that 
street musicians should be suppressed I feel 


that the hour has almost come to start a 
movement in favour of Votes for Children. 
It is disgraceful, ladies and gentlemen, that 
this important section of the community, on 
whom the whole future of the nation 
depends, should have no voice in the form- 
ing of the nation's laws ! This question of 
street-organs cannot be solved by banishing 
them to the slums without depriving many 
children of a legitimate pleasure. For, sub 
rosa, the children of Park Lane if there 
are any children in Park Lane and even 
the children of " brain-workers," appreciate 
the music of street organs quite as much as 
their humble contemporaries. While father 
buries his head under the sofa-cushions and 
composes furious letters to the Times in that 
stuffy hermitage, little noses are pressed 
against the window-pane, little hands 
applaud, and little feet beat time on the 
nursery floor upstairs. This is one of those 
situations where it is permissible to sym- 
pathise with all parties, and unless father 
can achieve an almost inhuman spirit of 
tolerance I see no satisfactory solution. 
For children must have music ; they must 


have tunes to think to and laugh to and live 
to. Funeral marches to the grave are all 
very well for the elderly and disillusioned, 
but youth must tread a more lively measure. 
And this music should come like the sun- 
shine in winter, surprisingly, at no fixed 
hour, as though it were a natural conse- 
quence of life. One of the gladdest things 
about the organ-man in our childhood was 
the unexpectedness of his coming. Life 
would be dragging a little in schoolroom 
circles, when suddenly we would hear the 
organ clearing its throat as it were ; we 
would all run to the window to wave our 
hands to the smiling musician, and shout 
affectionate messages to his intelligent 
monkey, who caught our pennies in his 
little pointed cap. In those days we had 
all made up our minds that when we grew 
up we would have an organ and a monkey 
of our own. I think it is rather a pity that 
with age we forget these lofty resolutions 
of our childhood. I have formed a concep- 
tion of the ideal street-organist that would 
only be fulfilled by some one who had 
realised the romance of that calling in their 


How often, when the children have been 
happiest and the dance has been at its gayest, 
I have seen the organ-man fold music's wings 
and move on to another pitch in search of 
pennies ! I should like to think that it is 
a revolt against this degraded commercialism 
that inspires the protests of the critics of 
street music. The itinerant musician who 
believed in art for art's sake would never 
move on so long as he had an appreciative 
audience ; and sometimes, though I am 
afraid this would be the last straw to the 
" brain-workers," he would arrive at two 
o'clock in the morning, and the children, 
roused from their sleep, would hear Pan 
piping to his moonlit flocks, and would 
believe that they were still in the pleasant 
country of dreams. 

Now that the Houndsditch affair has been 
laid aside by the man in the street and it 
is once more possible for a bearded English- 
man to tread the pavements of London 
without reproach, I may perhaps venture to 
give some account of a secret society with 
which I have been intimately connected, 
without earning the reputation of a monger 
of sensations. 

Some four or five years ago I met a 
picturesque journalist who told me that he 
had once been at pains to worm out the 
secrets of an anarchist society in London, 
and had incorporated his discoveries in a 
volume so marvellous that no editor or pub- 
lisher would believe it. I only remember 
one incident of all his wonderful adventures. 
He was led by an anarchist comrade into 
a small shop in the Strand, thence into a 



cellar, and thence along a series of passages 
and caverns that ultimately brought him out 
in Seven Dials ! Even Mr. Chesterton's 
detective-anarchists in the " Man who was 
Thursday " could not beat this. For my part 
I shall not try, but shall content myself with 
a straightforward narration of facts. 

I should think it was about last July that 
I first noticed that the children of my neigh- 
bourhood, with whom I have some small 
acquaintance, were endeavouring to assume 
a sinister aspect, and were wearing a cryptic 
button with a marked air of secrecy. When 
I came out for my morning walk the front 
garden would be animated with partially 
concealed children like the park in Mr. 
Kipling's "They," and though I have long 
realised that suburban front gardens do not 
lend themselves to the higher horticulture, 
I felt the natural embarrassment of the man 
who does not know whether he is expected 
to expel trespassers or welcome bashful visi- 
tors. In the circumstances I affected not 
to notice that the lilac was murmurous with 
ill -suppressed laughter and that the laurels 
were waving tumultuously ; but it was 


hardly reassuring to discover on my return 
that a large red cross and the letters T.S. 
had been chalked on my gate by an unknown 
hand. For a moment I wondered whether 
the children had been reading " Sentimental 
Tommy," for these were the initials and the 
methods of Mr. Barrie's luckless hero, but 
the age and genial contempt for scholar- 
ship of the investing forces made this 
unlikely. On the fourth day, finding one 
of the band momentarily separated from her 
comrades, I ventured a coup d'&tat. Point- 
ing to the letters on her secret button, I 
remarked, " I see you belong to the Teapot 

" I don't ! " she said indignantly ; " it's the 
Terror Society I belong to." 

The secret was out, but I thought it wiser 
to conceal my triumph. Evidently, however, 
my discovery troubled the band, for next 
morning I received a soi-disant anonymous 
letter of caution signed in full by all the 
members. I felt that the moment had 
arrived for definite action, especially as the 
cat who honours my house with his 
presence, and whose summer morning bask- 


ing-place is in the front garden, had been 
much upset by this recurrent invasion of 
his privacy. I wrote a humble letter to the 
Society, apologising for my crimes and beg- 
ging that I might be allowed to become a 
member, and placed it outside on the path. 
Five minutes later two very unembarrassed 
children appeared in my study, and intro- 
duced themselves as Captain and Secretary 
of the Terror Society. 

The Captain was very frank with me. 

" Of course, we didn't really want to 
frighten you," she said, "but we had to get 
you to become a member somehow or 

" But I'm afraid I'm not much good at 
conspiracies," I said modestly. 

" Oh, that doesn't matter," the Captain 
answered kindly. " You can be honourable 
Treasurer. You know we want a lot of 
things for our house." 

I began to see what part I had in the 
scheme of things. " What are the rules of 
the Society?" I asked in all innocence, and 
thereby flung the Secretary into confusion. 

" You see, she wrote them out," the Captain 


explained, " and she doesn't want you to 
read them because of the spelling. But 
they're only make-up rules, so you needn't 
bother about them. Don't you want to see 
the house?" 

" Captain," I said firmly, " it is my one 
wish. Lead on ! " 

" You ought really to be blindfolded," the 
Captain whispered to me as we went along, 
"but I used my handkerchief to wrap up 
some of cook's toffee this morning, and it's 
rather sticky." 

" Don't apologise," I murmured hastily ; 
" I don't mind not being blindfolded a bit. 
Besides, I'm practically a member, and you 
mustn't blindfold members ; it isn't done." 

The Captain seemed relieved. "I knew 
you would make a good treasurer," she said 
with cheerful inconsequence. " But, look ! 
there's the house." 

The headquarters or club-house of the 
Terror Society stood beside the allotment 
gardens at the top of the hill, and may, 
at some less honourable period of its history, 
have served as a place for storing tools. 
In the course of their trespassings the chil- 


dren had found it lying empty, and had 
obtained permission from the landlord to 
have it for their very own. I have implied 
that the feminine element was predominant 
in the Society, and, recalling the wigwams 
and log huts of my own childhood, the differ- 
ence between the ideals of boys and girls 
was sharply brought home to me when I 
crossed the threshold. The walls were 
papered with sentimental pictures out of 
Christmas numbers and literally draped with 
curtains ; there were vases filled with flowers 
in every corner, and in the middle of this 
boudoir three of the members were drink- 
ing tea. In a sense, perhaps, the girls were 
to be commended for finding the true 
romance in domesticity, but I could not help 
wondering what Captain Shark of the barque 
Rapacious, that faithful friend of my boy- 
hood, would have thought of a Terror 
Society run on such principles. However, 
I saw that the eyes of the members were 
upon me, and I hastened to do my duty 
as an honourable member. " It's wonder- 
ful," I said. " How on earth did you manage 
to do it all yourselves?" 


The children all fell to apportioning the 
credit all, that is, save the Captain, who 
seemed to me a very businesslike fellow. 

" You see, Mr. Treasurer," she said, " we 
want some more of those camp-stools and 
a lock to keep out burglars, and some knives 
and forks, and a tin of biscuits and a pail 
and candles and a candlestick and a clothes- 
brush and a little bell to ring at dinner-time 
and a knocker for the door." 

Fortunately she paused to take breath. 

" My dear Captain," I interrupted quickly, 
I have a sovereign in the savings-bank, and 
if you come with me to-morrow we'll draw 
it out, and do the best we can with the 
money. But tell me, am I really a 

" Of course you are ! " 

" Then Where's my mysterious button ? " 

The Captain frowned. "Jessie will have 
to paint you one, but the ribbon costs a 

"That makes twenty shillings and a 
penny," said the Secretary. It was indeed 
a businesslike Society. 

The next day the Captain and I did a lot 


of miscellaneous shopping, and two days 
later the button was left at my door by a 
small boy. Then for a fortnight I heard 
nothing of the Society or its members, and 
no sinister invasion of the morning occurred 
to disturb the far peace in the eyes of 
my cat. At last I met the Captain in the 
road, and though she endeavoured to elude 
me, I succeeded in getting her into a 

" Well, Captain," I said, " how's the Terror 

The Captain looked gloomy. " Haven't 
you heard? " she said. " The Terror Society 
is all over." 

" Finished already ! " I cried in astonish- 
ment. " Why, what have you done with the 

" It has been given to another society," 
she said without a blush. 

"Another society?" 

"Yes, the Horror Society. I am Captain." 

I considered this news for a moment. 
" Well, I suppose I'm a member of the new 
society?" I ventured. 

The Captain shook her head sadly. " I'm 


so sorry," she said, "but the H. S. has a 
rule that no grown-ups are admitted ! " 

That is why, though I myself was a 
member of the Terror Society, I yet feel 
myself at liberty to write about it. For as 
on inquiry I discovered that the ranks of 
the Horror Society differed in no wise from 
those of the Terror Society save for the 
exclusion of the honourable Treasurer, I 
cannot help feeling that I have been rather 
badly treated. 


I CANNOT remember how old I was when 
I wrote the thrilling poem about the tiger 
who swallowed the horse, nor am I quite 
certain that it was my first literary effort, 
but I know that I was still at the tight 
knickerbocker stage, and that my previous 
poems, if there had been any, had remained 
secrets of my own. It was due to a 
cousin that my conspiracy against the world 
of common sense was finally discovered. 
Woman-like, she tickled my ears with flat- 
tery, and persuaded me to let her read the 
precious document ; and then, as soon as 
she had it in her hand, she fled to the 
camp of the Olympians, leaving me alone in 
the little dark room to reflect on the guiles 
of the sex. With straining ears I waited for 
the distant chorus of mocking laughter that 
would announce my failure, while my body 

12 161 


tingled all over with shame. Yet beneath my 
fear I was conscious that I had not been 
wholly unwilling to be betrayed. It seemed 
to me that if I proved to be a great poet, 
my future traffic with the Olympians might 
be of a more agreeable character than it had 
been previously. On the other hand, I felt 
that life would be impossible if they greeted 
my poem with scorn. Conceived and per- 
fected in solitude, it had become an inti- 
mate part of myself, and I turned dark 
thoughts to the purple berries that grew in 
the shrubbery, and provided us with wholly 
innocuous poison for our arrows. Even 
then, it would seem, I had an instinctive 
knowledge of the tragedy of failing as a poet. 
And then, while I yet waited in suspense, 
I heard the sound of footsteps and knew 
that my cousin was returning. In a flash I 
realised how stupid I had been to remain 
in the room, when I might have hidden 
myself in some far corner of the attic and 
appeared no more until my shame had been 
forgotten. My legs trembled in sudden 
panic, and it seemed to me that my face 
was ticking like a clock. I received my first 


critic with my head buried in the cushions 
of the sofa. 

Looking back, I perceive that the Olym- 
pians rose to the occasion, but at the time 
I could hardly believe my good -fortune. 
Long after my cousin had gone away I lay 
on the sofa turning over the pleasant 
message in my mind and the magic half- 
crown in my hand. Praise I had desired, 
if not expected ; but that the Olympians 
whose function in life was to divert our tips 
into a savings-bank account that meant 
nothing to us, that these stern financiers 
should give me a whole half-crown in one 
sum, unhindered by any restrictions in the 
spending, was incredible. Yet I could feel 
its rough edge in the dark ; and considering 
its source, I formed an erroneous idea of the 
influence of the arts on the minds of sane 
grown-up people, from which even now I 
am not wholly delivered. 

After a while, with a mind strangely con- 
fused between pride and modesty, I stole 
into the room where the others were sit- 
ting. But with a quick sense of disappoint- 
ment I saw that I need not have concerned 


myself at all with the proper attitude for 
a young poet to adopt. The Olympians, 
engaged in one of their meaningless dis- 
cussions, did not notice my entrance, and 
only my brothers were interested when I 
crept silently into their midst. 

"What are you going to spend it on?" 
they whispered. 

Oddly, for I was the youngest of four, 
this success of mine was responsible for a 
literary outburst in our normally uncultured 
schoolroom, and one of the fruits of that 
intellectual disturbance, in the shape of a 
manuscript magazine, lies before me. It 
contains an editorial address to the " friendly 
reader," two short stories full of murders, 
a quantity of didactic verse, and the first 
instalment of a serial, which commences 
gravely : " My father was a bootmaker of 
considerable richness." Of literary achieve- 
ment or even promise it would be hard to 
find a trace in these yellowing pages, but 
there is an enthusiasm behind every line of 
them that the critic would seek in vain in 
modern journalism. Indeed, those were the 
days in which to write, when paper and 


pencil and half an hour never failed to pro- 
duce a masterpiece, and the finished work 
invariably thrilled the artist with " out- 
landish pride." I cannot recall that any 
further half-crowns rewarded our efforts, 
and possibly that is the reason why three 
of the four boys who wrote that magazine 
are now regenerate and write no more. 

And even the fourth must own to having 
lost that fine, careless trick of throwing off 
masterpieces, and to regretting, in moments 
of depression, the generous Olympian im- 
pulse that enabled him to barter his birth- 
right of common sense for a silver coin with 
a rough edge. And the Olympians they, too, 
have regretted it, I suppose, for the goddess 
of letters is an exacting mistress, and we 
do not willingly see our children engaging 
in her irregular service. Yet I do not see 
what else they could have done at the time. 

A little while ago I discovered a small 
girl, to whom I act as a kind of illegal uncle, 
in the throes of lyrical composition. With 
soft words and flattering phrases, borrowed, 
perhaps, from the cousin of the past, I won 
the paper from her grasp. It was like all 


the poetry that children have ever written, 
and I was preparing to banter the young 
author when I saw that she was regarding 
me with curious intentness, and that her 
face turned red and white by turns. Even 
if my intentions had been honourable I 
could not have disregarded her signs of dis- 
tress. " I think it's very nice indeed," I 
said ; " I'll give you half a crown for it." 
As her fingers closed on the coin I felt 
inclined to raise a shout of triumph. For 
now that I had paid the half-crown back I 
should be able gradually for, of course, the 
habit of years is not broken in a minute- 
to stop writing. My only fear is that my 
conscience may have gone to sleep in my 
long years of aloofness from simplicity ; for 
though I already detect a note of vagueness 
in the eyes of my niece, and her mother 
complains that she is becoming untidy, I 
hold my peace, and offer no explanation. 
For I feel sure that if I did I should recover 
my half-crown. 


IN the well-ordered garden of every well- 
ordered house that is, every house that 
numbers children in its treasury there lies, 
screened perhaps by some inconvenient 
shrubbery but none the less patent to 
the stars and the winds and the polite visitor, 
a tormented patch of earth where sway in 
dubious security of tenure a number of sickly 
plants. For days they have lain parched 
and neglected in the summer sun ; for days 
they have been beaten down into a morass 
by torrents poured from an excited watering- 
pot ; their roots have regarded heaven for 
no less a period than their heads ; and in 
the face of such unnatural conditions Ceres, 
one fancies, must have fallen back in con- 
fusion and left them to struggle on as best 
they can unaided. It is only the most hardy 



of plants that may survive the attentions of 
a youthful gardener, and it is a tribute to 
Nature's obstinacy that any survive at all. 
I have in my mind a garden of this kind, and 
thereby hangs one of those rather tragic 
stories which grown-up people are apt to 
consider funny. The garden lay below an 
old brick wall, which must, I think, have 
faced south, for, as I remember it, it was 
always lit by the sun. It was the property 
of three children, and their separate estates 
were carefully marked off by decorative walls 
of shells and freakish pebbles. Here, early 
and late, two of the children waged a gallant 
war against Nature, thwarting and checking 
her with a hundred delicate attentions ; but 
on the third had fallen that pleasant mood 
when it is nicer to lie in the shade and to 
dream of wine than to labour in the vine- 
yard. His garden was a tangle of weeds 
and of healthy, neglected plants, and when 
the inevitable awakening came he saw that 
it would require days of unprofitable work 
to turn the wilderness into a proper garden. 
Yet to hear the uninformed comparisons of 
visitors was a shameful ordeal not to be 


borne. He solved the problem, I still think, 
in a very spirited manner. He cleared the 
garden by the simple process of removing 
plants and weeds alike, and sowed the ground 
with seeds, purchased alas ! with a shilling 
extracted quite illegally from his money-box. 
But the secrecy of these movements had not 
escaped the notice of the Olympians, and 
later there fell on his horrified ears an 
entirely new and obviously truthful theory 
of botany ; it seemed that the word " thief " 
could be plainly deciphered on the flowers 
of dishonest gardeners. There were no 
blossoms in that little boy's garden that year. 
Like the monk in Browning's poem, he 
pinched off all the buds before the sun 
was up. 

They were simple flowers we sought to 
cultivate in those days, simple flowers with 
beautiful names. Violets and snowdrops, 
the reticent but cheerful pansy, otherwise 
known as " three faces under a hood," love- 
lies-bleeding, wallflowers, stocks, and London 
pride, or " none so pretty " ; of these and their 
unaffected comrades we made our gardens. 
Spades and pickaxes were denied us, but the 

simple gardening tools were ours, and he 
has lived in darkness who has not experi- 
enced the keen joy of smacking the earth 
with the convex side of a trowel. My hands 
tingle when I remember how sore weeding 
made the finger-tips, and there is something 
in the last ecstatic chuckle of a watering- 
pot as it runs dry that lingers in the ear. 
I am aware that there are persons of mature 
years who can find pleasure in the perform- 
ance of simple garden tasks. But I am afraid 
that subconsciously it is the aesthetic aspect 
of flowers that attracts them, and that 
their gardening is only a means to an end. 
No such charge could be brought against our 
efforts. We cared little about flowers or 
results of any sort ; we only wanted to 
garden, and it troubled us not at all that 
the labours of one day destroyed those of 
the day before. To dig a deep hole and 
to fill it with water when completed is, as 
far as I have observed, no part of the 
ordinary gardener's daily work, but it was 
our favourite effort, and a share in the con- 
struction of these ornamental waters was the 
greatest favour that we could grant to a 


friend. There were always captivating 
insects with numerous and casual legs to 
be discovered in the digging, and great stones 
that parted from the earth as reluctantly 
as nuggets. And when we had hollowed a 
cup in the earth we would pour in the sea 
and set our hearts floating upon its surface 
in paper ships. The sides of the hole would 
crumble down into the water like real cliffs, 
and every little fall would send a real wave 
sparkling across the surface of the ocean. 
Then there were bays to be cut and canals, 
and soundings to be taken with pieces of 
knotted string weighted with stones. Water 
has been the friend of children ever since 
Moses floated in his little ark of rushes to 
the feet of Pharaoh's daughter. 

I question whether they know very much 
about this sort of gardening at Kew, a place 
which is, however, beloved of children for 
the sake of the excellent spiral staircases 
in the palm-houses. But every sensible child 
has the art at its finger-tips, and in the time 
that we take to reach Brighton in a fleet 
motor they will construct a brand new sea 
for themselves a sea with harbours and 


islands and sunken reefs, a perfect sea of 
wonder and romance. 

If we are prepared to set aside our pre- 
conceived ideas as to what a garden ought 
to be, we must own that the children are 
not far wrong after all. A garden is only 
a world in miniature, with prairies of flowers 
and forests of roses and gravel paths for 
the wide, dusty roads. When we plant 
flowers in our garden it is as though we 
added new territories to our empire, new 
reds and blues and purples to our treasury 
of colours. And so when a child has Wrought 
a fine morning's havoc in its little patch of 
ground it has added it may be an ocean, it 
may be only a couple of stars to the king- 
dom of imagination which we may no longer 
see. It only needs a sunny hour or two, a 
trowel, and a pair of dirty hands to change 
a few square yards of earth into a 
world. And the child may be considered 
fortunate in being able to express itself 
perfectly in terms of dust. Our books and 
pictures cumber the earth, our palaces strike 
the skies, and yet it is our common tragedy 
that we have not found expression ; while 


down the garden behind the lilac-bushes at 
this very moment Milton may have developed 
Lycidas into a sticky marsh, and Shakespeare 
may have compressed Hamlet into a mud- 
pie. The works of the children end as they 
begin in dust ; but we cannot pretend that 
ours are more permanent. 


I AM willing to acknowledge that until lately, 
when I was privileged to entertain a cat 
under my roof for a fortnight, my know- 
ledge of these noble beings was only 
academic. I had read what the poets have 
to say about them Wordsworth and Swin- 
burne, Cowper and Gray ; I knew that " cat " 
was the only word in the English language 
that had a vocative, " puss " ; I knew that 
Southey mourned that his kitten should ever 
attain to cathood, that the Egyptians were 
very fond of cats and that Lord Roberts 
is not. Then I had seen cats in the street, 
and admired the spirit with which a home- 
less cat with no visible means of subsistence 
would put shame into the heart of a well- 
fed terrier. Lying awake by night I had 
heard their barbaric song ringing like a 
challenge in the ears of civilisation, and had 



wondered whether some unknown Strauss 
might not revolutionise the music of the 
future by aid of their passionate harmonies. 
But I had never moved in their society, and 
therefore I would not understand them. In 
those days I should probably have thought 
that the recent message of the Postmaster- 
General to the Press, to the effect that cats 
of the old General Post Office had been found 
comfortable homes, was trivial. And I re- 
member with shame that I watched the 
malevolent antics of the caricature of a cat 
that appears in the " Blue Bird " without 

I do not propose to give the events of the 
fortnight in detail, but rather to summarise 
them for the benefit of others who, like 
myself, may be called upon unexpectedly to 
entertain a feline guest. The name of my 
visitor was Kim, though I am told that most 
cats are called William Pitt, after the states- 
man. He was a short-haired tabby cat, some 
eighteen months old, and a fine, large fellow 
for his age. While he was with me he 
usually wore a white waistcoat, and there 
was a white mark on his face, as if some 


milk had been spilled there when he was 
a kitten. His eyes were very large and of 
the colour of stage sunlight, and they haunted 
me from the moment when I raised the lid 
of the hamper in which he arrived. They 
were always significant and always inscru- 
table, but I could not help staring into them 
in the hope of discovering their meaning. 
I think he knew they fascinated me, for he 
would keep them wide open and full of 
secrets for hours at a time. 

I had been informed that his name was 
Kim because he was the little friend of all 
the world, but at the first I found him 
reticent and of an independent disposition. 
I had always believed that cats purred when 
you stroked them, but when I stroked him 
he would endure it in silence for a minute 
and then retire to a corner of the room 
and make an elaborate and, under the 
circumstances, uncomplimentary toilet. In 
my inexperience I was afraid that he had 
taken a dislike to me, but one evening, after 
he had been with me three days, he climbed 
into my lap and went to sleep. My pipe 
was on the mantelpiece, and as Kim weighed 


over twelve pounds my legs grew very 
cramped ; but I knew better than to disturb 
him, and he slept very comfortably till two 
in the morning. He repeated this compli- 
ment on several occasions, but when I lifted 
him into my lap he always got off imme- 
diately, and made me feel that I had been 
ill-treating him. His choice of sleeping- 
places was strange. If I was reading, he 
waited till I laid the book down on the table 
and then fell asleep on top of it. When I 
was writing and he had grown weary of 
turning his head from side to side to follow 
the birdlike flight of the pen to the ink- 
pot, he loved to settle himself down on the 
wet manuscript and blink drowsily at my 
embarrassment. Once when I ventured to 
lift him off he sulked under the table all 
the afternoon, and I did not repeat the 
experiment. He seemed to be a very sensi- 
tive cat. 

Of course he was too old to play with me, 
but he had famous games by himself with 
corks and pieces of paper. Sooner or later 
he would drive these under one of the book- 
cases, and would sit down and mew plain- 



tively until I went and raked them out for 
him. Then he would get up and walk away 
as if such toys were beneath his dignity. 
The one fault I found in his character was 
this constant emphasis of an inferiority that 
I was quite willing to confess. A generous 
cat would have realised that I was trying 
to do my best, and would have pardoned 
my hundred errors of judgment. Kim never 
wearied of putting me in my place, and 
turned a scornful tail to my heartfelt 
apologies. When he was dozing in the 
evening on the hearthrug he was very angry 
if any one put coals on the fire, even though 
he had been warned beforehand of what was 
about to happen. He would look at me with 
an air of noble reproach and stalk away to 
the window, where, perched on the back of 
a window-seat, he would stay for hours, 
patiently observant of the sounds and smells 
of the night. 

But it was at mealtimes that he made me 
realise most the strength of his individuality. 
I had imagined that all cats were fond of 
milk, but Kim quickly disillusioned me, and 
it was as the result of a series of experiments 


that I discovered that he would only drink 
new milk raised to a certain temperature, 
and not then if he thought I was watching 
him. For the first twenty-four hours after 
he arrived he would eat nothing, though I 
tried to tempt him with chicken, sardines, 
and fillet of sole. Once or twice he gave a 
little plaintive mew, but for the most part 
he succeeded in giving me the impression of 
a brave heart enduring the pangs of a con- 
suming hunger with noble fortitude. At the 
end of that period, when he had reduced me 
to despair, he relieved himself and me by 
stealing a haddock. After that the task of 
feeding him was comparatively easy. I 
would prepare him a dinner and pretend 
to eat it myself with great enjoyment ; then 
I would leave the room as if I had suddenly 
remembered an appointment. When I re- 
turned the plate would be empty that is, 
as empty as a cat's dignity will allow him 
to leave a plate, and a few delicate impres- 
sions of Kim's paws on the tablecloth would 
tell me that all was well. The irritating 
motive that underlay this graceless manner- 
ism was clear to me. He would not be 


beholden to me for so much as a sardine, 
and he was willing to steal all his meals so 
long as he could remain independent. I 
think, too, that it amused him to undermine 
my moral character by making me deceitful. 

Incidentally, a cookery-book for cats is 
badly needed. Unlike dogs, they are gourmets 
rather than gourmands, and their appetites 
seem to languish if they do not have a con- 
tinual change of fare. They have subtle 
palates ; Kim liked gorgonzola cheese and 
curried rabbit, but he would not eat chicken 
in any form. I found anchovy sauce very 
useful to make a meal savoury that Kim 
had not thought palatable enough to steal, 
and the wise host will hold this condiment 
in reserve for such occasions. There is no 
relying on their likes or dislikes ; they will 
eat something with avidity one day and reject 
it with infinite distaste the next. 

On the whole it was a busy fortnight, and 
it was not without a certain relief that I 
said farewell to my emotional guest and sent 
him back to his owner. Designedly, as I 
believe, he had succeeded in making me pain- 
fully self-conscious, so that I could not do 


anything without being led to feel that in 
some way I was sinning against the laws 
of hospitality. It was pleasant to realise 
that my life was once more my own, and 
that I was free from the critical inspection 
of those significant, inscrutable eyes. I have 
commented on the independence of his 
character ; it would be unjust if I failed to 
mention the one exception. One night I was 
awakened by a soft paw, a paw innocent of 
all claws, patting me gently on the cheek, 
and in the dark I was aware of Kim sitting 
on my pillow. I supposed that he was lonely 
and put up my hand to stroke him. Then 
for once in a way the proudest of sentient 
beings was pleased to drop the mask of his 
pride and purr loudly and without restraint. 
In the morning he treated me with exagge- 
rated coldness, but I was not cheated into 
believing that his friendliness had been a 
dream. There are possibilities about Kim ; 
and I believe that if he were to stop with 
me for two years we should come to a very 
tolerable understanding. 


OF the nameless classics which were of so 
much concern to all of us when we were 
young, the most important were certainly 
those salt and blusterous volumes that told 
of pirates. It was in vain for kindly rela- 
tives to give us books on Nelson and his 
like ; for their craft, beautiful though they 
might be to the eye, had ever the moralities 
lurking between decks, and if we met them 
it was only that we might make their crews 
walk the plank, and add new stores of guns 
and treasure to the crimson vessel with the 
sinister flag which it was our pleasure to 

And yet the books that gave us this 
splendid dominion, where are they now? 
In truth, I cannot say. Examination of 
recent boys' books has convinced me that 



the old spirit is lacking, for if pirates are 
there, it is only as the hapless victims of 
horrible British crews with every virtue save 
that one which youth should cherish most, 
the revolutionary spirit. Who would be a 
midshipman when he might be a pirate? 
Yet all the books would have it so, and even 
Mr. Kenneth Grahame, who knows every- 
thing that is worth knowing, does not always 
take the right side in such matters. The 
grown-up books are equally unsatisfactory 
to the inquiring mind. "Treasure Island," 
which is sometimes loosely referred to as 
if it were a horn-book for young pirates, 
hardly touches the main problems of pirate 
life at all. Stevenson's consideration for 
" youth and the fond parient " made him 
leave out all oaths. No ships are taken, no 
lovely females captured, nobody walks the 
plank, and Captain John Silver, for all the 
maimed strength and masterfulness that 
Henley suggested to the author, falls lament- 
ably short of what a pirate should be. 
Captain Teach, of the Sarah, in the " Master 
of Ballantrae," is better, and there were 
the makings of a very good pirate captain 


in the master himself, but this section of 
the book is too short to supply our require- 
ments. The book must be all pirates. 
Defoe's " Captain Singleton " repents and is 
therefore disqualified, and Marryat's " Pirate " 
is, as Stevenson said, "written in sand with 
a saltspoon." Mr. Clark Russell, in one of 
his romances, ingeniously melts a pirate who 
has been frozen for a couple of centuries 
into life, but though he promises well at 
first, his is but a torpid ferocity, and ends, 
as it began, in words. Nor are the histories 
of the pirates more satisfying. Captain 
Johnson's " History of Notorious Pirates " 
I have not seen, but any one who wishes to 
lose an illusion can read the trial of William 
Kidd and a few of his companions in the 
State trials of the year 1701. The captain 
of the Adventure Galley appears to have 
done little to merit the name of pirate 
beyond killing his gunner with a bucket, and 
the miserable results of his pilferings bear 
no relationship to the enormous hoard 
associated with his name in " The Gold 
Bug " of Poe, though there is certainly a 
familiar note in finding included among his 


captives a number of barrels of sugar-candy, 
which were divided in shares among the 
crew, the captain himself having forty 
shares. The Turkish pirates mentioned in 
" Purchas " cut a very poor figure. You can 
read there how four English youths over- 
came a prize crew of thirteen men who had 
been put in the ship Jacob. In a storm 
they slew the pirate captain, for with the 
handle of a pump " they gave him such a 
palt on the pate as made his brains forsake 
the possession of his head." They then 
killed three of the other pirates with " cuttle- 
axes," and brought the ship safely into 
Spain, " where they sold the nine Turkes 
for galley-slaves for a good summe of 
money, and as I thinke, a great deale more 
than they were worth." Not thus would 
the chronicles have described the pirates 
who fought and caroused with such splendid 
devotion in my youth. To die beneath the 
handle of a pump is an unworthy end for 
a pirate captain. The " History of the 
Buccaneers of America," written by a 
brother of Fanny Burney, a book which was 
the subject of one of Mr. Andrew Lang's 


appreciative essays, is nearer the mark, for 
among other notable fellows mentioned 
therein is one Francois L'Olonnois, who put 
to death the whole crew of a Spanish ship, 
ninety men, by beheading them, perform- 
ing himself the office of executioner. One 
of the gentlemen in this book turned bucca- 
neer in order to pay his debts, while it is 
told of another that he shot one of his crew 
in church for behaving irreverently during 
Mass. Sir Henry Morgan and Richard 
Sawkins performed some pretty feats of 
piracy, but their main energies were con- 
cerned in the sacking of towns, and the 
whole book suffers from an unaccountable 
prejudice which the author displays against 
the brave and hard-working villains of whom 
he writes. 

In truth, these real pirates are disappoint- 
ing men to meet. They are usually lacking 
in fierceness and in fidelity to the pirate 
ideals of courage and faithfulness to their 
comrades, while the fine nobility of char- 
acter which was never absent from those 
other pirates is unknown in the historical 
kind. Few, if any, of them merit the old 


Portuguese punishment for pirates, which 
consisted in hanging them from the yards 
of their own ship, and setting the latter to 
drift with the winds and waves without 
rudder or sails, an example for rogues and 
a source of considerable danger to honest 

If that were a fitting end for great knaves, 
the meaner ruffians must be content with 
the pump-handle and the bucket. 

It is hard if our hearts may not go out 
to those gloomy vessels, with their cargoes 
of gold and courage and rum, that sail, it 
seems, the mental seas of youth no more. 
Were they really bad for us, those sanguin- 
ary tussles, those star -lit nights of dissipa- 
tion? A pinafore would wipe away a deal 
of blood, and the rum, though we might 
drink it boiling like Quilp, in no wise 
lessened our interest in home-made cake. 
But these regrets are of yesterday, and to- 
day I must draw what consolation I may 
from the kindly comment of Mr. Lang : 
" Alluring as the pirate's profession is, we 
must not forget that it had a seamy side, 
and was by no means all rum and pieces-of- 


eight. And there is something repulsive to 
a generous nature in roasting men because 
they will not show you where to steal 


HE used to play to me in the magic hour 
before bedtime, when, in the summer, the 
red sun threw long shadows across the lawn, 
and in winter the fire burned brighter and 
brighter in the hearth. This was the hour 
when all the interminable squabbles of the 
schoolroom were forgotten, and even the 
noisiest of us would hush his voice to listen 
drowsily to a fairy-tale, or to watch the 
palaces raise aloft their minarets, and 
crumble to dull red ash in the heart of the 
fire. It was then that I would see him 
sitting astride of the fireguard and puffing 
out his cheeks over his shining flute. Even 
in the most thrilling moments of fairy 
stories, when Cinderella lost her crystal 
slipper or Sister Ann saw the cloud of dust 
from the summit of Bluebeard's tower, his 
shrill melodies would ring in my ears and 



quicken my sleepy senses with the desire to 
hear more of this enchanted music. I knew 
that it was real magic, but I did not find 
it strange, because as far as I knew I had 
heard it all my life. Perhaps he had played 
to me when I yet lay in my cradle, and 
watched the night-light winking on the 
nursery ceiling ; but I did not try to 
remember whether this was so. I was content 
to accept my strange musician as a fact of 
my existence, and to feel a sense of loss 
on the rare evenings when he failed me. 
I did not know how to dance, but sometimes 
I would tap my feet on the floor in time to 
the music, till some one would tell me not 
to fidget. For no one else would either see 
him or hear him, which proved that it was 
real magic, and flattered my sense of pos- 
session. It was evident that he came for 
me alone. 

The years passed, and in due course the 
imaginative graces of my childhood were 
destroyed by the boys of my own age at 
school. They compelled me to exchange a 
hundred star -roofed palaces, three distinct 
kingdoms of dreams, and my enchanted flute- 


player for a threadbare habit of mimicry 
that left me cold and unprotected from the 
winds in the large places of life. There 
was something at once pathetic and ridi- 
culous in our childish efforts to imitate our 
elders, but as it seemed that our masters 
and grown-up relatives were in the con- 
spiracy to make us materialistically wise 
before our time, a boy would have needed a 
rare force of character to linger with his 
childhood and refuse to ape the man. So, 
for a while, I saw my glad musician no more, 
though sometimes I thought I heard him 
playing far away, and the child within me 
was warmed and encouraged even while my 
new-found manhood was condemning the 
weakness. I knew now that no man worthy 
of the name was escorted through life by 
a fairy flute-player, and that dreamers and 
wool -gatherers invariably sank to be poets 
and musicians, persons who wear bowler- 
hats with frock-coats, have no crease in their 
trousers, and come to a bad end. Fortu- 
nately, all education that is repressive rather 
than stimulating is only skin-deep, and it 
was inevitable that sooner or later I should 


meet the flute -player again. One Saturday 
afternoon in high summer I avoided cricket 
and went for a long walk in the woods, 
moved by a spirit of revolt against all the 
traditions and conventions of boy -life ; and 
presently, in a mossy clearing, all splashed 
and wetted by little pools of sunlight, I 
found him playing to an audience of two 
squirrels and a redstart. When he saw me 
he winked the eye that glittered over his 
parading fingers, as though he had left me 
only five minutes before, but I had not 
listened long before I realised that I must 
pay the price of my infidelity. It was the 
old music and the old magic, but try as 
I might I could not hear it so clearly as I 
had when I was a child. The continuity of 
my faith had been broken, and though he 
was willing to forgive, I myself could not 
forget those dark years of doubt and denial ; 
and while I often met him in the days that 
followed, I never won back to the old 
childish intimacy. I sought his company 
eagerly and listened passionately to his 
piping, but I was conscious now that this 
was a strange thing, and sometimes when he 


saw by my eyes that I was moved by 
wonder rather than by the love of beauty, 
he would put his flute in his pocket and 
disappear. The world is an enchanted place 
only to the incurious and tranquil -minded. 

Nevertheless, though like all boys I had 
been forced to discard my childish dreams 
before I had really finished with them, the 
lovely melodies of the flute -player served to 
enrich my latter years at school with much 
of the old enchantment. Often enough he 
would play to me at night during prepara- 
tion, and I would spend my time in trying 
to set words to his tunes instead of doing 
my lessons. It was then that I regretted 
the lost years that had dulled my ear and 
prevented me from winning the inmost magic 
of his song, compared with which my verses 
seemed but the shadow of a shadow. Yet I 
saw that he was content with my efforts, 
and gradually made the discovery that while 
great achievement is granted to the fortu- 
nate, it is the fine effort that justifies a man 
to himself. What did it matter whether my 
songs were good or bad? They were the 
highest expression I could find for the 



rapture of beauty that had filled my heart 
as a child when I had been gifted to see 
life with clean and truthful eyes. For the 
songs the flute -player played to me were the 
great dreams of my childhood, the dreams 
that a wise man prolongs to the day of his 

I do not hear him often now, for I have 
learnt my lesson, and though my hands 
tremble and my ear deceives me, I am by 
way of being a flute-player myself. This 
article, it is clear, is a child's dream, and 
so have been, and will be, I hope, all the 
articles I shall ever write. What else should 
we write about? We have learnt a few long 
words since we grew up, and a few crimes, 
but no new virtues. That is why I like to 
get back to the nursery floor, and play with 
the old toys and think the old thoughts. We 
knew intuitively then a number of beau- 
tiful truths that circumstance appears to 
deny now, and we grown men are the poorer 
in consequence. It is folly to find life ugly 
when the flute lies within our reach and we 
can pipe ourselves back to the world of 
beauty with a song made of an old dream. 


As for the flute-player, if I see him no 
more with wakeful eyes, I know that he is 
never very far away. Likely enough one of 
these wintry evenings, -in the hour before 
bedtime, when the fire burns brighter and 
brighter in the hearth, I shall look up and 
see him sitting astride of the fireguard and 
puffing out his cheeks over his shining flute. 
Not many nights ago I heard some one play- 
ing the flute out in the street, and I went 
down and found a poor fellow blowing his 
heart out for rare sous. There was not 
much enchantment about him he had been 
dismissed from a music-hall orchestra for 
drinking red wine to excess but he was a 
real flute -player, and I could well imagine 
that such a man might be driven to in- 
temperance by the failure to achieve those 
" unheard melodies " not to be detected by 
the sensual ear. To be a bad flute -player 
must be rather like being a bad poet, a 
joyous but sadly finite life. He was a sad 
dog, this earthly musician, and he frankly 
conceived the ideal state as a kind of com- 
munal Bodega where thirsty souls could find 
peace in satiety. I gave him fivepence to 


help him on his way, and left him to make 
doleful music in the night till he had enough 
money to supply his crimson dreams. But 
he ought not to have said that my flute- 
player was only an amateur. 


WHEN he walked down the streets with his 
head drooping towards the pavement and his 
hands thrust deep into the pockets of 
his overcoat the grown-ups would say, 
"There goes poor Mr. X. wool-gathering as 
usual " ; and we children used to wonder 
what he did with all the wool and where 
he found it to gather. Perhaps he collected 
it from the thorn-bushes whereon the sheep 
had scratched themselves, or perhaps, being 
a magician, he had found a way to shear the 
flocks that we often saw in the sky on fine 
and windy days. At all events, for a while 
his strange calling made us regard him with 
interest as a man capable of doing dark and 
mysterious things. Then the grown-ups tried 
to dispel our illusions by explaining that 
they only meant that he was absent-minded, 
a dreamer, an awful warning to young folk 


who had their way to make in the world. 
This admirable moral lesson, like most of 
their moral lessons, failed because they did 
not appreciate the subtlety of our minds. 
We saw that the wool-gatherer did no recog- 
nisable work, wore comfortably untidy 
clothes, walked in the mud as much as 
he wanted to, and, in fine, lived a life of 
enviable freedom ; and we thought that on 
the whole when we grew up we should like 
to be wool -gatherers too. Even the phrase 
" absent-minded " excited our admiration ; 
for we knew that it would be a fine thing 
if our thoughts could travel in foreign coun- 
tries, where there are parrots and monkeys 
loose in the woods, while our bodies were 
imprisoned in the schoolroom under the un- 
sympathetic supervision of the governess of 
the moment. Although we no longer credited 
him with being a magician, the tardy 
explanations of the grown-ups had, if any- 
thing, increased his glamour. It seemed to 
us that he must be very wise. 

He lived in an old house a little way out 
of the town, and the house stood in a garden 
after our own heart. We knew by the 


shocked comments of our elders that it had 
formerly been cut and trimmed like all 
the other gardens with which we were 
acquainted, but it was now a perfect wilder- 
ness, a delightful place. My brother and 
I got up early one morning when the dew 
was on the world and explored it thoroughly. 
We found a goat in an outhouse and could 
see the marks in the meadow that had once 
been a lawn, where he was tethered during 
the day. The wool-gatherer was evidently 
in the habit of sitting under a tree that stood 
at one corner, for the earth was pitted with 
the holes that had been made by the legs 
of his chair. Being a wise man, we thought 
it probable that he conversed with his goat 
and could understand the answers of that 
pensive animal, who wagged his beard at us 
when we peeped shyly into his den. In the 
long grass by the tree we found a book 
bound like a school prize lying quite wet 
with the dew. It was full of cabalistic signs, 
and we took care to leave it where we found 
it lest it should be black magic, though now 
I would support the theory that Mr. X. read 
his Homer in the original. Taking it 


altogether, it was the most sensible garden 
we had ever seen, with plenty of old fruit- 
trees, but with none of those silly flower- 
beds that incommode the careless feet of 
youth. Our expedition enhanced our opinion 
of the wool -gatherer's wisdom. 

Here at least was a grown-up person who 
knew how to live in a decent fashion, and 
when he ambled by us in the market-place, 
his muddy boots tripping on the cobbles, 
and the pockets of his green-grey overcoat 
pulled down by the weight of his hands, our 
eyes paid him respectful tribute. He really 
served a useful purpose in our universe, for 
he showed us that it was possible to grow 
old without going hopelessly to the bad. 
Sometimes, considering the sad lives of our 
elders who did of their own free will all 
the disagreeable things that we were made 
to do by force, we had been smitten with 
the fear that in the course of years we, too, 
would be afflicted with this melancholy 
disease. The wool -gatherer restored our 
confidence in ourselves. If he could be 
grown-up without troubling to be tidy or 
energetic, why, then, so could we ! It amused 


us to feel that our affronted rulers were 
itching to give him a good talking to and 
to send him off to brush his clothes and his 
boots ; but he was beyond the reach of 
authority, this splendid man. And one of 
these days we thought that we, too, would 
enjoy this delightful condition of freedom, 
for, like many grown men and women, we 
did not realise that liberty is a state of mind 
and not an environment. 

We had never seen the inside of his house, 
but we could imagine what it was like. No 
doubt he kept his servants in proper order 
and did not allow them to tidy up, so that 
his things lay all over the room where he 
could find them when he wanted them. He 
had a friendly cat, with whom we were 
acquainted, so that he would not lack com- 
pany, and probably on wet days when he 
could not go out into the garden he had 
the goat in to play with him. He went to 
bed when he liked and got up when he liked, 
and had cake for every meal instead of 
common bread. A man like that would be 
quite capable of having a sweetshop in one of 
the rooms, with a real pair of scales, so that 


he could help himself whenever he wanted 
to. Whenever our own lives grew a little 
dull we played at being the wool -gatherer, 
but although he occupied such a large part 
of our thoughts we never dared to speak to 
him, because we were afraid of his extra- 
ordinary wisdom. This was not our normal 
reason for avoiding the society of grown-up 

When one day a funeral passed us in the 
street, and we were told that it was the wool- 
gatherer's, we shook our heads sceptically. 
The coffin was quite new and shiii3 r , and all 
the horses had their hoofs neatlj r blacked, 
and we thought we knew our man better 
than that. But as day followed day and 
we met him no more our doubts were over- 
come, and we knew that he was dead. After 
a while his will was published in the local 
newspaper, and the grown-ups were greatly 
impressed, because it seemed that he had 
been very rich and had left all his money to 
hospitals. Secretly we patronised them for 
their tardy discovery of our man's worth ; 
it had not needed any newspaper to tell us 
that he was remarkable. But when some 


new people took his house and cut down 
all the bushes and tidied up the garden we 
were really hurt, and began to realise what 
we had lost. Where should we play now 
these hot nights of summer when the hours 
passed so slowly and we could not sleep? 
They had made his beautiful wilderness as 
dull as our own, and our dreams must find 
a new playground. We never heard what 
happened to the goat. 

Now that I am myself grown-up, though 
children occasionally flatter me by treating 
me as an equal, I revert sometimes to our 
earliest thoughts and wonder what the wool- 
gatherer did with all his wool. Perhaps he 
wove it into blankets for the poor dreamless 
ones of the world. They are many, for it is 
not so easy to be absent-minded as people 
think ; in the first place, it is necessary to 
have a mind. It is wrong also to believe 
that wool-gatherers fill no useful place in 
life. I have shown how Mr. X., lost in his 
world of dreams, was yet of real service to 
us as children, and in the same way I think 
that we who live the hurried life derive 
genuine satisfaction from the spectacle of 


the dreamers sauntering by. If they serve 
no other purpose, they are at least mile- 
stones by aid of which we can estimate our 
own speed, and if no one were idle we would 
win no credit from our marvellous energy. 
Also they are happy, and the philosopher 
will always hesitate to condemn the way of 
life of a man who succeeds in that task. 
Perhaps we should all be better off gathering 
wool ! 

IT is something to have heard once in a 
lifetime the ecstatic thrill that glorifies Essex 
Hall while that intellectual pirate Mr. 
Bernard Shaw sails out and scuttles a 
number of little merchant ships of thought 
that have never hurt anybody. The applause 
and admiring laughter that punctuate his 
periods really suggest that Fabianism makes 
people happy, while the continued prosperity 
of the group gives the lie to the cynic who 
reminded me how popular ping-pong was 
while the craze lasted, and how utterly for- 
gotten it is to-day. But I had to rub my 
eyes while I stood in the overcrowded room, 
listening to Puck in Jaeger, more witty, 
perhaps, than the old Puck, but no less 
boyishly malicious, and ask myself whether, 
after all, this was only, the old magic in a 
new form. True, civilisation had perforce 



made him larger in order that human beings 
might appreciate his eloquence, and I saw 
no traces of wings or magic flowers. But 
beyond that I recognised the same pitying 
contempt for mortals, the same arrogant con- 
fession of his own faults, the same naive 
cunning. And then (perhaps a turn of the 
voice did it, or some slight slurring of the 
words) the enchantment passed, the ears of 
his audience resumed their ordinary dimen- 
sions, and I offered mentally two teaspoon- 
fuls of honey to the real Puck, for I saw 
that he had tricked me into recognising 
his qualities in the most serious man the 
twentieth century knows. 

Yet, though I found Mr. Shaw to be only 
a prophet and his fellow-Fabians honest 
enthusiasts instead of bewitched weavers, I 
cannot say that the discovery left my mind 
at ease for the welfare of the fairy kingdom 
that is so important to every one who has 
not forgotten it. What if this terrible 
seriousness were to spread? What if every 
one were to turn prophet? What if a night 
should come when never a child in all the 
Duke of York's Theatre would clap its hands 


to keep Tinker Bell alive? At first I wished 
to reject this frightful end of all our play 
and laughter and wonder as impossible. Yet 
sinister stories of children who preferred 
sewing-machines and working models to 
dolls and tin soldiers rose in my mind, and 
it is hardly more than a step from that (degree 
of progress to the case of the child who 
may find the science of sanitation more in- 
teresting than tales of fairies. The possibility 
should make even the extremists shudder, 
but it must be remembered that many honest 
people believe in technical education, and that 
for that matter practically the whole of the 
teaching in our schools takes the form of 
an attack on the stronghold of the imagina- 
tive child. It is our barbarous custom to 
supplant a child's really beautiful theories 
with the ugly crudities which we call facts, 
and it is impossible to realise how much 
humanity loses in the process. As for the 
fairies, frail little folk at best, how shall they 
prevail against the criticism of our sulphur 
and the cunning of our permanganate of 
potash? Shall we always be able to dis- 
tinguish them from microbes? 


It may be well to pause here and see 
whither the wise, serious men of to-day are 
taking us. I suppose they will abolish Will- 
o'-the-Wisp by draining all the marshes, and 
their extreme industry will render Puck's 
kindly household labours ludicrously un- 
necessary. They will turn their swords 
against all the bad barons, unjust kings, and 
spiteful magicians, whose punishment has 
been hitherto the fairies' special task ; and 
this they will do in blackleg fashion, neither 
demanding nor receiving their just wages of 
beauty and immortality. They will scorn- 
fully set aside the law, so dear to the 
younger inhabitants of nurseries, by which 
it is always the youngest son or the 
youngest daughter whom the gods delight 
to honour. They will fill with porridge 
and deck with flannel underclothing the 
little flower-girls and crossing-sweepers, 
whose triumphs set faith in the eyes of 
babes. With their hard, cruel facts they 
will completely wreck the fairy civilisa- 
tion which has taken centuries of dreaming 
and wondering children to construct. They 
will brush our fancies away like cobwebs. 


A while ago, when I was a little boy, some 
enemy seeing me admire the stars thought it 
necessary to tell me exactly what they were ; 
later, my natural interest in the extra- 
ordinary behaviour of the sea led another 
enemy to place a globe in my hands, and 
prick the bubble of the universe with 
ridiculous explanations. So it is that when 
I regard the heavens I see enormous balls 
of rotting chemicals, rendered contemptibly 
small by distance, floating in a thin fluid 
called space ; so it is that when I look at 
the sea my mind is occupied with stupid 
problems about the route, of floating bamboos, 
when I ought to be exalted as one who peers 
out through the darkness towards the Un- 
known. Where there were two then, there 
are to-day twenty kindly persons about every 
child, eager to prove the things it would 
like to believe in superstitions, and eager 
to explain away its miracles in terms of 
dustcarts and vegetable soup. Our babies 
are taught to hang out their stockings and 
to batter in their empty egg-shells, but are 
reminded at the same moment that these 
charming rituals are but follies, and that 



the capital of Scotland is Edinburgh. 
Youngsters babble Imperialism and Socialism 
when they ought to be standing on their 
heads to look at the Antipodes, and their 
parents commend their common sense. 
Already, I fear, the wings of many of the 
fairies are beginning to fade, and Puck 
capers but mournfully in his lonely haunts. 
But fairies, goblins, elves, call them what 
you will, they are worth having, and that 
is why I would entreat the wise men who 
are arranging to-morrow for us to spare 
them, even though they have forgotten them- 
selves all that the presence of fairies in the 
world is worth. By all means feed the 
children and give them Union Jacks, but 
let their faith in the beautiful be looked to 
as well. And, finally, to the serious person 
who says with raised eyebrows, " You can't 
honestly say you believe in fairies ! " I 
would answer this : In a world which at 
present is fiercely antagonistic to the belief 
in any emotion less material than hunger, it 
is impossible to avoid occasional doubt con- 
cerning the existence of anything which it 
is not possible to eat. But when I am in 


the company of those who really do believe 
I do not fail to hear the echoes of fairy 
laughter in their speech, and see the flicker 
of fairy wings reflected in their eyes, and 
with this knowledge I am content. 


WE have noticed that in writing about panto- 
mimes the critics of our contemporaries 
usually make two rather serious mistakes. 
The first is the assumption that pantomime 
is really intended for the amusement of 
children, and the second (which to a certain 
extent is implicit in the first) is the con- 
clusion that most pantomimes are unsatis- 
factory because they fail to provide the 
children with suitable fare. A glance at any 
pantomime audience should dispel the first 
illusion. Even at matinees the children are 
in the minority, while at night the dispro- 
portion is quite startling. To us it seems that 
the real purpose of modern pantomime is 
to give conscientious objectors to music-halls 
an opportunity of witnessing a music-hall 
entertainment without shame. It follows 
that, even if the second criticism were just, 



it would not be very important ; but though 
we agree that the average pantomime is far 
removed from the ideal entertainment for 
children, it is at all events quite harmless, 
and contains a number of elements that 
children like. They appreciate the colour 
of the pageant, the papier-mache treasures, 
the gilt moons and ultramarine sunsets, the 
jewelled and gilt scenery ; they like the 
funny clothes and red noses and boisterous 
horseplay of the low comedians ; they like 
the " little girls " in short skirts, in whom 
the sophisticated recognise the tired ladies of 
the ballet ; they like, in fact, nearly all 
the things which writers with sentimental 
views on children think it necessary to 
condemn. As a general rule they do not 
care for the love-making or the singing ; 
after a long experience of pantomimes 
we are prepared to say that they are 
right, though our reasons are not perhaps 
theirs. The singing in pantomimes is nearly 
always extremely bad, and the fact that the 
principal boy is always the principal girl 
makes the Jove-scenes ridiculous. The 
wonder is that in an entertainment (hat 


must at all costs be made attractive to 
adults there should be so much that gives 
genuine pleasure to young people. 

From the days of our youth we have 
always had a kindness for Drury Lane 
Theatre, and, above all, for Drury Lane 
pantomime. The theatre has an individual 
atmosphere, the pantomime is not like the 
pantomime one sees anywhere else. In 
order to appreciate the size of the place it 
is necessary to put on a very small pair of 
knickerbockers and gaze upwards from the 
stalls between the chocolates and the ices. 
It is like looking into the deeps of heaven, 
though here the gods suck oranges and make 
cat -calls those fascinating sounds that our 
youthful lips would never achieve. Drury 
Lane is the only theatre that preserves the 
old glamour. We never enter its doors with- 
out thinking of Charles Lamb, and it would 
hardly astonish us if Mistress Nell Gwynn 
came to greet us with her basket of China 
oranges, wearing that famous pair of thick 
worsted stockings that the little link-boy gave 
her to save her pretty feet from the chil- 
blains. Outside, the image of Shakespeare 


leans on its pedestal, sadly contemplative of 
the grey roofs of Covent Garden. The 
porters who carry about bunches of bananas 
unconsciously reproduce the pictures of Mr. 
Frank Brangwyn. If Shakespeare ever slips 
down from his perch to watch a scene or 
two of the pantomime from the shadows of 
the auditorium, he must wonder a little at 
our twentieth -century masques. Like the 
children, he would probably appreciate 
the splendid colour and brightness of the 
spectacle, and, having been an actor him- 
self, he would perhaps pardon the actors' 
cheerful neglect of the rights of the 
dramatist. For modern pantomime is a 
business of strongly contrasted individualities 
rather than the product of blended and 
related effort. This is especially true of 
Drury Lane, whose stage at this season of 
the year is always crowded with vaudeville 
Napoleons and musical -comedy Cleopatras. 
In detail the pantomime is excellent ; as an 
artistic entity it does not exist. 

At first sight this seems rather a pity. 
Given a wonderfully appointed stage, 
gorgeous mounting, a fine orchestra, and a 


number of gifted performers, it is natural to 
expect that the result should be more than 
the mere sum of these units. But, as a matter 
of fact, pantomime is essentially formless. 
Those critics who clamour for straight- 
forward versions of the old nursery stories 
would be vastly disappointed if they got 
what they wanted. The old stories are well 
enough when told by firelight in the 
nursery after tea of a winter's evening. But 
they lack humour, and are not, as a rule, 
dramatic. (" Bluebeard," of course, is a 
striking exception.) When a story lasting 
twenty minutes must be expanded to last 
four hours the story is bound to suffer. 
When, in addition, all the characters are 
played by performers whose strength lies 
in their individuality, it will be surprising 
if any part of the illusion created by the 
original fable survives at all. 


AT a season of the yqar when children invade 
both the stage and the auditorium of many 
theatres in unwonted numbers it would be 
at least topical to speculate as to the philo- 
sophy of pantomime and the artistic merits 
and defects of child actors and actresses. 
But while juvenile mimicry of adult con- 
ceptions of drama is entertaining enough, 
it is more to our purpose to consider the 
dramatic spirit as it is actually present in 
children themselves. Pantomimes certainly 
do not reflect this spirit, and, in spite of 
the sentimental, but hardly more childish 
influence of fairy-plays, are still aimed ex- 
clusively at adult audiences who grant them- 
selves no other opportunity of appreciating 
the humours of the music-halls. Probably 
the ideal children's play would have the 
colour of pantomime, the atmosphere of 



" Peter Pan," the poetry of the " Blue Bird," 
and, most important of all, a downright 
melodramatic plot. It is this last that 
is invariably lacking in entertainments 
nominally provided for children ; it is the 
first consideration in the entertainments they 
provide for themselves. 

If grown-up people were in the habit, 
which unfortunately they are not, of meeting 
together in moments of relaxation and acting 
little extemporary plays, these plays would 
surely give a first-hand indication of the 
dramatic situations that interested them. Yet 
this is what children are always doing, and 
in terms of play every little boy is a dashing 
and manly actor and every little girl a beau- 
tiful and accomplished actress. From the 
first glad hour when little brother cries to 
little sister, " You be Red Riding Hood, and 
I'll be the wolf and eat you ! " the dramatic 
aspect of life is never absent from the mind 
of imaginative youth. 

In one respect, at all events, these play- 
dramas of children should meet with the 
approval of modern dramatic critics. No 
one can accuse them of losing sight of the 


motive of their drama in elaboration of 
scenery or stage effects. A chair will serve 
for a beleagured castle, a pirate ship, or 
Cinderella's coach in turn, and the costumes 
imitate this Elizabethan simplicity. Never- 
theless, it cannot be said that their stage is 
entirely free from the tyranny of those per- 
nicious conventions that place obstacles in 
the way of art. The law of primogeniture, 
always rigidly enforced in nurseries, as Mr. 
Kenneth Grahame has observed, makes the 
eldest brother as much of a nuisance as the 
actor-manager. According to his nature, and 
the character of the play, he always insists 
on being either hero or villain, and in the 
absence of limelight contrives to give him- 
self an exaggerated share both of the action 
and of the dialogue. Sisters are placid 
creatures and do not very much mind 
whether they have anything to do or not 
as long as they can all be princesses, but 
it is hard on a younger brother to be com- 
pelled to walk the plank, although he has 
the heart of a pirate chief. And the fact that 
whatever part he may play the eldest brother 
must triumph at the end of the last act tends 


to stereotype the lines along which the drama 

As for the plays themselves, it must be 
owned that they cover an extraordinary 
extent of ground, and display a variety that 
no other repertory theatre can hope to equal. 
The present writer has seen five children 
in one afternoon give spirited performances 
of Aladdin, David and Goliath, an unnamed 
drama of pirates, and the famous comedy of 
teacher and naughty pupils. This last is 
the standard performance of Elementary 
School girls all over London, and to the dis- 
cerning critic displays just those faults of 
sophistication and over-elaboration to which 
long runs at our theatres have made us 
accustomed. The teacher is always too 
monotonously ill-tempered, the pupils are ill- 
behaved beyond all discretion ; Ibsen, one 
feels, would have expressed this eternal 
warfare between youth and authority in 
subtler terms. Sometimes, however, London 
children achieve a really startling realism 
in their games ; and the looker-on may 
derive a considerable knowledge of the 
mothers from watching the children perform 


in some such drama of life as the ever- 
popular " Shopping on Saturday Night." It 
may be noted here that children's rhapsodies 
over dolls and kittens, or, indeed, over 
anything, are always clever pieces of 
character-acting. Naturally, children do not 
rhapsodise, but they soon learn the secret of 
the art from observation of their elders. 

But though in large towns the poorer 
children may not have escaped the spirit of 
the age, so that their art hardly raises them 
from the grey levels of their lives, children 
in general are eager to find the artistic 
symbol for their dreams, and allow realism 
but an accidental share in the expression of 
their romantic ideals. They do not seek 
the materials for their dramas in the little 
comedies and tragedies of nursery or school- 
room life ; they prefer to forget that 
ordinary everyday happenings have ever 
wooed them to tributary laughters or tears, 
and fulfil their destiny as pirates or high- 
waymen, fairies or forlorn princesses. 

Probably the nearest approach to children's 
drama that we have on the modern stage 
is the so-called cloak-and-sword drama. 


Children's plays are full of action ; speeches 
are short and emphatic, and attempts at 
character-acting are desultory and provoca- 
tive of laughter in the other members of 
the company. The fights are always carried 
out with spirit and enthusiasm. To have 
seen Captain Shark, that incarnadined pirate, 
wiping his sword on his pinafore is to have 
realised that beauty of violence for which 
Mr. Chesterton pleads so eloquently in the 
"Napoleon of Notting Hill." 

Bearing in mind the nature of the dramas 
that children play to please themselves, it 
should be possible to lay down certain rules 
as to the composition of plays for their enter- 
tainment. Working by light of Stevenson's 
lantern, Mr. Barrie has done good work in 
" Peter Pan," but he has made tremendous 
mistakes. The scene on the pirate ship is 
perfect, a model of what such a scene should 
be, with plenty of fighting and no burden- 
some excess of talk. But in a play that is 
essentially a boys' play Wendy is a mis- 
take. There was no Wendy on Stevenson's 
island of treasure, and her continual intru- 
sion into the story would not be tolerated 


in any nursery. In real life she would either 
have had to discard her sex and become a 
member of the band, or else have adopted 
the honorary role of princess and stayed 
tactfully in the background. The Pirate 
Chief is very good so good, in fact, that 
it looks very like an eldest brother's part, 
in which case he would have beaten Peter 
and made him walk the plank. The end, 
though pleasing to adult minds, is impossible 
from a childish point of view. The boys 
would never have left their fun of their own 
free will. The gong ought to have sounded 
for tea, or perhaps Mr. Darling could have 
returned from the City with some mysterious 
parcels for the children to open. That is 
how things really happen. To our mind, as 
we have said above, the greatest fault a 
play for children can have is the lack of 
a straightforward plot that allows of plenty 
of stirring and adventurous action. Children 
love stories, whether they be make-up stories 
of their own or real stories told them by 
some one else. The hero of the play should 
be the biggest boy acting it ; the female 
characters should have no greater share of 


the action than the most rudimentary sense 
of politeness would allow them, but they may 
sit in the background, mute but beautiful 
princesses, as much as they like, and they 
are permitted to comment on the courage 
of the hero when occasion offers. Success- 
ful scenes should be repeated three or four 
times till their possibilities had been ex- 
hausted. Every now and then, if realism is 
desired, nurse or governess should look 
through the door and say, " Children, don't 
be rough," to which the whole company must 
reply, " We're only playing ! " Once at least 
in the course of the play one of the smaller 
members of the company should be smitten 
into tears, to be comforted by the princesses. 
The actors should quarrel freely among 
themselves and throw up their parts every 
half-hour, but, on the whole, they should all 
enjoy themselves enormously. 

Such an entertainment, we admit, would 
be intolerable to the sentimental adult ; but 
the criticisms of the children in the audience 
would be worth hearing. 


" In age to wish for youth is full as vain, 
As for a youth to turn a child again." 


IT is to be supposed that there are few men 
and women, who do not occasionally look 
back on the days of their childhood with 
regret. The responsibilities of age are some- 
times so pressing, its duties so irksome, that 
the most contented mind must travel back 
with envy to a period when responsibilities 
were not, and duties were merely the simple 
rules of a pleasing game, the due keeping of 
which was sure to entail proportionate 

And this being so, and the delights of the 
Golden Age always being kept in the back 
of our mind, as a favourable contrast to 
the present state of things, it is hardly sur- 

16 ** 


prising that in course of time, the memory 
of the earlier days of our life is apt to 
become gilded and resplendent, and very 
unlike the simple, up and down April exist- 
ence that was really ours. The dull wet 
days, the lessons and the tears are all for- 
gotten ; it is the sunshine and the laughter 
and the play that remain. But it by no 
means follows that such hoarding up of 
pleasant memories tends to make a man dis- 
contented with his lot ; it would rather seem 
that they impart something of their good 
humour to the mind in which they are 
stored, so that the sunshine of former jolly 
days returns to yield an aftermath of more 
sober joy, and to help to light out our later 
years with a becoming glow of cheerfulness. 
And on the other hand you will find that 
an habitually discontented man will be quite 
unwilling to own that the days of his youth, 
at all events, were happy. 

There is no doubt that the most natural 
result of this glorification of our own child- 
hood is a liking for children. Seeing them 
naughty or good, at work or at play, our 
minds straightway step back through the 


span of years to greet a little one who 
behaved in just such a way ; and the 
sympathetic understanding thus engendered, 
shows us the surest way, both to manage 
children of our own, and to make friends 
with those of others. 

It is impossible to conceive a man, bear- 
ing his own childhood in mind, behaving 
unjustly or unkindly to a child. For seeing 
that we perceive in every child a more or 
less distinct reflection of our own child 
nature, such conduct would be something 
suicidal. How much of the child is still 
contained within our mature mind is diffi- 
cult to judge some people have much more 
than others. And it is these people who 
can peel off their experience and knowledge 
like an athlete stripping for a race, and 
who can step out to play not only with the 
same spirit and excitement, but even with 
the same mental processes as a child ; these 
are they who can readily obtain admission 
into the sacred circle of child games, and 
who can fancy, for just as long as the game 
lasts, that they are once more wandering 
in that fairy garden from whose easy paths 


of laughter and innocence our aching feet 
are banished for ever. 

Here, then, is the cure for this nostalgia 
of childhood, which seizes the best of us 
from time to time, and causes us to batter 
vainly at fast-locked nursery doors, or to 
look sadly at the gaudy toyshops, robbed 
by the cynical years of their fit halo. When 
this melancholy falls on us, and we who are 
respectable forty feel like senile eighty, let 
us forthwith seek the company of little 
children, and so elude the fatal black dog. 
" Sophocles did not blush to play with 
children." Why should we? And for those 
who are not fortunate enough to number 
in their acquaintance children of the right 
age and humour, here, as the cookery books 
say, is a tried receipt. 

Take a copy of Mr. Barrie's " Little White 
Bird," together with a large bag of sweets, 
and sally to the park. The rest depends on 
your address, but for a shy man a puppy 
will prove an invaluable aid to the making 
of acquaintances. And if, as has happened 
to ourselves, at the end of a delightful after- 
noon a little lady of some seven years should, 


abjuring words, fling her arms round your 
neck and press an uncommonly sticky pair 
of lips on a cheek which, till that moment 
we will suppose better acquainted with the 
razor, why then, if not sooner, you will have 
learnt that the whole philosophy of grow- 
ing old is the increasing pleasure you can 
take in the society of the young ; this, once 
determined, a vista of most charming days 
lies before you, and sorrow for a nursery 
cupboard that has gone into the Ewigkeit 
will be forgotten in helping some diminutive 
neighbour to explore hers. 

Southey was really stating this idea when 
he wrote in " The Doctor " that " A house 
is never perfectly furnished for enjoyment, 
unless there is a child in it rising three 
years or a kitten rising six weeks," though 
to our mind the presence of both would be 
the ideal arrangement, since the kitten would 
take the place of the puppy previously 
mentioned, for the child to play with. 

If we wish to support age kindly, it is 
only to be done by surrounding ourselves 
with youth. And the laughter of children, 
surely the purest and sweetest of all music, 


will strike a responsive chord in our 
breasts, and will enable us to live through 
the years that wither, in all harmony and 


OF all the intellectual exercises with which 
we solace the idle hours that we devote to 
thought, none is more engaging and at the 
same time perplexing than that of endeav- 
ouring to form a clear conception of the 
age in which we live. Naturally the diffi- 
culty lies, not in lack of materials on which 
to base an impression indeed, we are em- 
barrassed by the quantity of evidence that 
accumulates to our hand but in the fact that 
it is hard to see things in true perspective 
when they are very near to the observer. 
The yet unborn historians of the present 
era will doubtless lack much of our know- 
ledge, but they will be able to unravel in 
the quietude of their studies the tangled 
threads and stubborn knots that writhe 
beneath our fingers with the perpetual 
changeableness and uneasy animation of life 



itself. But if it is impossible to write dis- 
passionately of a revolution while men are 
dying at the barricades and musket -balls are 
marring the bland uniformity of the wall- 
paper of the room in which we write, it is 
always open to the student of life to fall 
back on impressionism, the form of art that 
seeks to bludgeon life with a loaded phrase, 
rather than to woo her to captivity with 
chosen and honied words. And the brutal 
method is apt to prove the more efficacious, 
as with that frail sex that kisses, so I am 
told, the masculine hand that grants the 
accolade of femininity in that blessed state 
of bruiser and bruised that is Nature's 
highest conception of the relationship of the 
two sexes. While science greets the corpse 
with incomprehensible formulae and the con- 
scientious artist gropes for his note-book of 
epithets to suit occasions, impressionism 
stops her dainty nose with her diminutive 
square of perfumed silk, and the dog is dead 

We are all born impressionists, and it 
takes the education of years to eradicate the 
gift from our natures ; many people never 


lose the habit of regarding life in this queer, 
straightforward fashion, and go to their 
graves obstinately convinced that grass is 
green and the sky is blue in dogged oppo- 
sition to the scientists, didactic dramatists, 
eminent divines, philosophers, aesthetic poets, 
and human beings born blind. Some of 
these subtle weavers of argument would have 
us believe that impressionism means just the 
converse of the sense in which I am using 
the word ; that, for instance, the fact that 
grass is green comes to us from indirect 
sources, as that of our own natures we would 
perceive it to be red or blue. But while 
we believe our impressions to be our own, 
we know that this theory has reached us 
indirectly, so we can well afford to ignore it. 
Others, again, will have it that impressions 
are not to be trusted ; and the majority of 
people, while rejecting or failing to com- 
prehend the philosophic basis on which this 
doubt is founded, are only too willing to 
accept a theory that relieves them in some 
way of responsibility for their own indi- 
vidual actions. As a matter of fact, tell- 
ing a man to mistrust his impressions is 


like bidding a mariner despise his compass. 
If our senses lie to us, we must live, per- 
force, in a world of lies. 

But as I hinted above, the young are wont 
to rely on their impressions from the 
moment when a baby first parts its lips in 
howling criticism of life. Children have 
implicit faith in the evidence of their senses 
until the grown-up people come along and 
tell grimy stories of perjured eyes and lying 
ears, and the unhappy fate of the unwise 
babes who trusted them. What is a child 
to do? Usually it accepts the new theory of 
its own inherent blindness and deafness 
grudgingly, but it accepts it nevertheless. It 
begins to rely on the experience of older 
human beings, as if the miracle of its own 
life were no more than the toneless repeti- 
tion of other lives that have been before it. 
Wonder passes from its life, as joy passes 
from pencil and paper when the little fingers 
are made to follow certain predestined lines, 
instead of tracing the fancies of the moon. 
The child becomes sensible, obedient, quick 
at its lessons. It learns the beauty of the 
world from pictures and the love of its 


mother from books. In course of time its 
senses become atrophied through disuse, and 
it can, in truth, no longer see or hear. 
When this stage is reached the education of 
the individual is completed, and all civilisa- 
tion's requirements are satisfied. 

I have described an extreme case, and the 
judicious reader will realise that the process 
is rarely completed in so short a time as 
the last paragraph suggests. But sooner or 
later most men and women come to believe 
in experience, and to this belief is due our 
tyrannous treatment of the young. I can 
conceive that an age will come that will 
shrink with horror from the excesses we 
commit in the name of education, and will 
regard us who force children to do their 
lessons against their will very much in the 
way in which we regard the slave -owners 
of the past, only with added indignation that 
our tyranny is imposed on the children's 
minds, and not on the bodies of adults. Let 
those conservative readers who find this 
comparison a little strained reflect for a 
moment on what it is that we have to teach 
the next generation, with what manner of 


wisdom we chain the children's imaginations 
and brand their minds. We teach them in 
the first place to express themselves in 
sounds that shall be intelligible to us, and 
this, I suppose, is necessary, though I should 
like to doubt it. Further, we invariably 
instruct them in the sciences of reading and 
writing, which seems to me frankly unfor- 
tunate. In Utopia, as I conceive it, the child 
who thought there was anything worth read- 
ing would teach itself to read, as many 
children have done before it, and in the 
same way the rarer child who desired to 
express itself on paper would teach itself 
to write. That any useful purpose is served 
by the general possession of this knowledge 
I cannot see. Even civilisation cannot 
rejoice that her children are able to read 
the Sunday newspapers and scrawl gutter 
sentiments on the walls of churches. 

Beyond this we teach children geography, 
which robs the earth of its charm of unex- 
pectedness and calls beautiful places by ugly 
names ; history, which chronicles inaccurate 
accounts of unimportant events in the ears 
of those who would be better employed in 


discovering the possibilities of their own 
age j arithmetic, which encourages the 
human mind to set limits to the infinite ; 
botany, which denotes the purposeless vivi- 
section of flowers ; chemistry, which is no 
more than an indelicate unveiling of matter ; 
and a hundred other so-called arts and 
science, which, when examined without pre- 
judice, will be found to have for their 
purpose the standardisation and ultimate 
belittlement of life. 

In Utopia, the average human being would 
not know how to read or write, would have 
no knowledge of the past, and would know 
no more about life and the world in general, 
than he had derived from his own impres- 
sions. The sum of those impressions would 
be the measure of his wisdom, and I think 
that the chances are that he would be a 
good deal less ignorant than he is now, when 
his head is full of confused ideas borrowed 
from other men and only, half -comprehended. 
I think that our system of education is bad, 
because it challenges the right of the indi- 
vidual to think constructively for himself. 
In rustic families, where the father and 


mother have never learnt to read and the 
children have had the advantages of 
"scholarship," the illiterate generation will 
always be found to have more intelligence 
than their educated descendants. The 
children were learning French and arith- 
metic when they should have been learning 

And, after all, this is the only kind of 
education that counts. We all know that 
a man's knowledge of Latin or the use of 
the globes does not affect his good-fellow- 
ship, or his happiness, or even the welfare 
of the State as a whole. What is important 
is, that he should have passed through 
certain experiences, felt certain emotions, 
and dreamed certain dreams, that give his 
personality the stamp of a definite individual 
existence. Tomlinson, the book-made man, 
with his secondhand virtues and secondhand 
sins, is of no use to any one. Yet while we 
all realise this, we still continue to have a 
gentle, unreasoning faith in academic edu- 
cation ; we still hold that a man should 
temper his own impressions with the 
experience of others. 


ABOUT this time last year I was fortunate 
enough to go to a very nice children's party, 
or, rather, a very nice party for children. 
I add the appreciative epithet because there 
was only one grown-up person there, and 
that person was not I ; and when all is said 
it may be stated confidently that the fewer 
the grown-ups the better the children's party. 
Nevertheless, although there was only one 
grown-up for about thirty children, and she 
the most charming and tactful of girls, I 
had not been long in the place of fairy-lamps 
before I discovered that with one exception 
I was the youngest person there. I had 
come out that night in the proper party 
frame of mind. My shoes were tight and 
my mind was full of riddles of which I had 
forgotten the answers, and as I drove along 
in a four-wheeler who ever went to a party 


in anything else? I noticed that the stars 
smelt of tangerine oranges. When I reached 
the house everything looked all right. The 
place was very busy, and there were lots of 
white frocks and collars, and pink faces. 

Yes, it ought to have been a jolly party, 
but it came about twenty years too late, and 
the children, I had almost added, were about 
twenty years too old. Instead of forgetting 
everything else in the whirl and clamour 
of play and dancing, they were, it seemed 
to me, too busy registering the impressions 
to enjoy themselves. One of them, a child 
of eleven, was already smitten with a passion 
for the mot juste. "My tongue," she told 
me gravely, " is like a cloud " ; and, later, 
"a marigold is like a circus." She had a 
crushing word for a comrade who was look- 
ing at herself in a mirror. " But you don't 
really look as nice as you do in the looking- 
glass ! " The other children did not seem 
much better, and I stood forlornly in their 
midst, as a child stands among the creased 
trouser-legs of its elders, until I saw a scared 
little face in a corner apart from the rest. 
"Why aren't you playing?" I asked. The 


child looked me straight in the face, and 
burst into a thousand tears. At least here 
was something young, something not wholly 
wise. We sat together, exchanging grave 
confidences all the evening. 

Possibly this is a queer way in which to 
start an article on common sense, but there 
is more than madness in my method, for I 
feel assured that the children have derived 
their new wisdom a senseless wisdom, a 
wisdom of facts from their absurd parents. 
The latest creed, the belief that comfort for 
the masses prevents remorse in the indi- 
vidual, may be well enough in its way, but 
it creates a very bad atmosphere in which 
to bring up children. They are taught that 
life is an agglomeration of facts, and no 
sort of miracle, and by learning these facts 
like little parrots they lose the whole thrill 
and adventure of life. They do not go out 
to kill dragons, because they know that there 
are no dragons there. Chivalry survived 
with children long after common sense had 
killed it as dead as mutton in the adult mind. 
But now they, too, have found it out, and 
there are only a few silly poets and mad 



lovers to keep the memory of Quixote 

What are these facts by which we are 
to guide our lives, of which, indeed, our 
lives are to consist? One of the simplest, 
one that has come to have the force of a 
proverbial expression, is the fact that two 
and two make four, and this is one of the 
first things we teach our children. 

I have a friend who suspects that in 
moments of intense consciousness two and 
two, weary of making four, would make five 
for a change. I have heard it argued against 
him by mathematicians that the fourness of 
four four's very existence, as it were de- 
pends on its being related to two in the subtle 
fashion suggested by the well-known dogma, 
but I can discern no grounds for this asser- 
tion. Consider the fate that would befall 
a man who went for a ride on an omnibus 
for the purpose of making use of this one 
fact. He might be aware that the fare to 
Putney was fourpence, and, proud of his 
mathematical knowledge, might pay his fare 
in two instalments of twopence. What 
would be his consternation to find that, as 


he reached his journey's end, he would have 
to pay another penny because he had not 
paid his fourpence in one lump sum? In 
terms of 'bus fares, two and two do not 
make four, and I would multiply examples 
of such exceptions to the accepted rule. 

But even if two and two really did make 
four, the fact would remain supremely use- 
less. However cunningly it was conveyed, 
the statement would not abate one tear from 
the sorrows of a child, nor would it brighten, 
even for an instant, the eyes of a dying man. 
You could not win a girl with it, because 
the man who counts his kisses is damned 
from the start. A poet could not turn it 
into song ; it would draw no briefest flame 
from the ashes of a storyteller's fire. The 
thing is cold, inhuman ; it is made for 
lawyers and politicians, and the persons who 
argue their lives away on matters of no im- 
portance. We who are simpler never put 
two and two together for the purpose of 
making four, for four is of no more use to 
us than a nice brace of twos. The infinite 
is the answer of all our mathematical 
problems, and if we cannot find it we are 

quick to sponge the sum off our slates. The 
belief that two and two make four leads 
most people to think four a better fellow 
than two ; to hold, for instance, that a man 
with four millions must be richer than a 
man with two, though the groans of our 
pauper millionaires never cease to admonish 
our national cupidity. Two and two make 
just what your heart can compass, neither 
more nor less, and, if your unit is worth- 
less, they make nothing at all. 

Facts are worse than useless, for they limit 
the journeys of the human mind ; but there 
is a common sense not founded on facts that 
represents the extreme limits of our intel- 
lectual pilgrimages. It is common only in 
this : it is true for all humanity when 
humanity is wise enough to accept it. 
Shakespeare had it deliciously, and even 
now we are only beginning to learn the 
things he knew. For instance 

"We are such stuff as dreams are made of, 
And our little life is rounded with a sleep." 

This seems more wisely true to us to-day 
than it did to the men and women of his 


age, but it was as true when he wrote it 
as it is now. Or again 

" Men must abide 

Their going hence even as their coming hither, 
Ripeness is all." 

This is the true common sense all that 
we know, all that we shall know ; but this 
is not the thing that we teach the children 
in our schools, nor is it the light by which 
most of us guide our lives. We invent trivial 
rules and conventions to belittle the life 
we have to lead, and make marks in the 
dust with our fingers to cheat an uncheatable 
fate. We add illusion to illusion in coward 
hopes of outliving the greatest illusion of 
all. We add folly to folly, and lie to lie, 
and are content that the results of our 
labours should be unwisdom and untruth. 
We add two to two and worship the mournful 
constancy of four. 

I began my article on common sense with 
a children's party ; I must end it, I suppose, 
somewhere within the limits of our unhoping 
lives. When the night of a hundred kisses 
draws to a close, and Dawn, with her painted 


smile, creeps like a spy into the room, men 
and women believe that they can see things 
as they really are. The earth is grey to 
their eyes, though not more grey than their 
own tired flesh, and their little hearts are 
quick to believe that grey is the normal 
colour of life. The sun comes up and tints 
the world with rose, and they forget their 
sorrow, as they have so often forgotten it 
before, and go their boasting way through 
the world they believe their own. Around 
them, in the light that is not the sun's, the 
shadows tremble shadows of the dead, 
shadows of the yet unborn. The wise 
cannot tell them apart. 


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